This report, the sixth in the series on public sector medical indemnity claims, presents data on claims open during the 2007–08 financial year and updates claim characteristics over the period 2003–04 to 2006–07. Obstetrics-related claims illustrate the detail available on all claims.

Data for this report are from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Medical Indemnity National Collection (MINC). Information is provided on the allegations of loss or harm that gave rise to claims, the people affected, and the cost, duration and mode of settlement of medical indemnity claims.

Public sector claims for 2007–08

Information is reported on all medical indemnity claims open at some time in 2007–08. There were 1,292 ‘new claims’ with a reserve set in response to commenced or anticipated legal action brought against public sector health providers. The principal clinician specialties most frequently recorded for new claims were Emergency medicine (15%), General practice— non-procedural (13%) and Obstetrics only (9%). There were 3,429 claims open at 30 June 2008, about 40% with reserves less than $30,000.

Changes over time for new claims 2003–04 to 2007–08

Information is provided over time on claims open during the period 2003–04 to 2007–08. The number of new claims in 2007–08 (1,292) was similar to 2006–07 (1,306) and less than approximately 2,000 claims each year between 2003–04 and 2005–06. The proportion of ‘new claims’ related to the clinical service context of Obstetrics remained relatively steady over the five year period (14–16%) and Accident and Emergency fluctuated between 15% and 21%. ‘New claims’ relating to General surgery made up 12% of claims in 2007–08 and in 2003–04, however there was a peak of 30% in 2005–06. The increased proportion of ‘new claims’ that year was affected by claims against one general surgeon in one state.

Public sector claims closed between 2003–04 and 2007–08

Information is provided on claims closed between 2003–04 and 2007–08. Numbers of claims closed varied between about 1,600 and 2,200 each year. About 50% to 60% each year were discontinued. Generally, the proportion of claims closed for $100,000 or more increased: it was 9% in 2003–04 and 13% in 2007–08. Generally, claims closed for nil cost also increased over time; they comprised 24% of the total in 2003–04 and 39% in 2007–08.

Obstetrics-related claims

Detailed information is provided on obstetrics-related claims for which the claim subject’s age was reported. There were 1,205 Obstetrics claims closed between 2003–04 and 2007–08. Of these, 60% involved women and the other 40% involved babies. For babies, the Mental and nervous system was allegedly affected for 47% of claims, and 9% of claims were settled for $500,000 or more (more than the 3% of claims overall).