Negligence and malpractice claims have risen alarmingly in the past few years: in 2014, the total liability stood at £29bn, and so it has more than doubled in a couple of years.
But if the payments are made to the victims or their survivors, the NHS could face bankruptcy, a group that includes the British Medical Association and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has warned the government.
The NHS costs UK taxpayers around £105bn a year, and the compensation payments for medical errors would drain it to such an extent that even basic services and support would not be possible. Although the letter-writers accept that "there must be reasonable compensation for patients harmed through clinical negligence", they say that these levels of pay-outs are "unsustainable".
They blame the escalation of payments partly on a new way that they are calculated; in one case, a girl who was left with cerebral palsy after errors during her delivery received a pay-out of £9.3m when earlier calculations had put the sum at £3.8m.
Patient groups are concerned that the rising payments could result in cases being 'brushed under the carpet,' or creating a wall of silence and denial in hospitals.