It is not only in South Africa that the cost of medical negligence lawsuits is draining the health service. There are calls in Britain for reform to help protect the National Health Service from pay-outs which hit GBP1.4 billion in the fiscal year ending March 2016 alone.

The UK Centre for Policy Studies says that the per capita cost of medical claims in the UK is more than twice that in the US and is growing at about 10% a year. GBP65 billion has been set aside for claims based on incidents that have already taken place and the government has set aside a further GBP5.9 billion to cover claims up to 2020.

In South Africa it has been reported that from the 2014/15 financial year to the 2016/17 financial year, more than R2.3 billion has been paid to cover medical negligence claims – with the state’s contingent liability for the claims sitting at R56 billion.

The reforms required will have to be a combination of improving health services to prevent mistakes and reforming the way damages are calculated and paid particularly for future losses. The South African Law Reform Commission has made proposals in regard to damages. If the current cost of claims could be diverted to better medical care, everyone will be a winner.