More medical indemnity claims in the private sector

The number of private sector medical indemnity claims considerably exceeded the number of public sector claims in 2012-13, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australia's medical indemnity claims 2012-13, presents data on public and private sector medical indemnity claims in Australia from 2008-09 to 2012-13. Medical indemnity claims arise from allegations of problems in the provision of health services.

The number of new private sector claims was stable around 3,200-3,300 per year from 2010-11 to 2012-13. This remains higher than the 2,300-2,500 new private sector claims per year in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

'There were about 950 new public sector claims in 2012-13. This was fewer than in any of the previous four years, where the number of new claims ranged from 1,200 to 1,400,' said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, there was a fall in the proportion of public sector claims closed for less than $10,000 and a corresponding rise in the proportion closed for between $100,000 and $500,000.

'However, when we look at public and private sector claims combined, there was little change over the years. For instance, the proportion of public and private sector claims closed for less than $10,000 remained fairly steady, at between 63-65%,' Ms Hargreaves said.

Between 2008-09 and 2012-13 there was a trend towards two features connected with less costly claims. The first was a higher proportion of claims that were linked with mild rather than severe harm to the patient. The second was a shift towards more claims connected with private medical clinics rather than public hospitals.

There were about 1,500 public sector claims closed in 2012-13-higher than in the previous 4 years, where the number ranged from about 1,100 to 1,400.

The number of closed private sector claims also rose between 2008-09 and 2012-13, from 2,400 to 3,800.

The proportion of new combined public and private sector claims against general practitioners was less in 2012-13 (23%) than any of the previous 4 years (28-32%). The proportion of new claims against obstetrics and gynaecology specialists also dropped (from 12% in 2008-09 to 8% in 2012-13), while the proportion of new claims associated with digestive, metabolic and endocrine system rose, from 10% in 2008-09 to 24% in 2012-13.

Public sector claims data for Western Australia are not available for this report.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 11 July 2014

Further information: Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1121, mob. 0407 012 520