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NHS pays out £1.1bn in compensation for medical mistakes

NHS pays out £1.1bn in compensation for medical mistakes

According to an investigation by The Daily Telegraph, the NHS paid out more than £1.1 billion in compensation for medical negligence mistakes at just 20 NHS trusts over the last five years. Patient safety charity, Action against Medical Accidents, has said the figure is concerning, but the human cost of clinical negligence is far greater.

649 negligence claims at one NHS trust alone

The Daily Telegraph investigation revealed the extent to which clinical negligence in NHS Trusts is increasing. The newspaper has compiled a league table of the worst offending trusts, with an astounding 649 claims resulting from negligence at just one trust in the five year period.

Between 2009/10 and 2013/14, 20 trusts paid out £1.1 billion as a result of medical negligence claims. Using official government figures, the trust with the highest payout over the five years was the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, with compensation hitting £79 million for 463 claims.

This trust, which runs the King George Hospital in Redbridge and the Queen’s Hospital in Romford, was put into special measures 18 months ago, when it was already under fire for failings in its maternity services. A 2011 investigation by the Care Quality Commission revealed a “culture of abuse” between midwives and maternity staff at the Queen’s Hospital, leading to a string of deaths. It is reported that 17 separate families and patients are now pursuing legal action against the trust following allegations of poor care at the Queen’s maternity unit between 2007 and 2013.

Chief executive of the Trust, Matthew Hopkins, defended it, stating:

“The number of claims against the Trust is directly related to the size of the organisation and this can vary from year to year. This trust is one of the largest and busiest in the NHS, and also offers regional services such as cancer and neurosurgery.

This, coupled with having one of the largest maternity units in England, can lead to high-cost settlements.

We do treat all claims as an opportunity to learn and to improve the safety and quality of care for our patients.”

Following closely behind the Barking, Havering and Redbridge Trust, was the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which paid out £78.3 million for 589 claims. The Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust paid out £75.4 million, while Nottingham University Hospitals incurred £71.6 million in liability. However, the Pennine Acute Hospitals had the highest number of claims within the top ten, with 649 claims made in the period, costing £60.2 million in compensation.

“Millions could be saved if there were earlier admissions of liability”

Across all trusts over the five-year period, the amount of compensation paid was £4.5 billion. The NHS Litigation Authority is expected to imminently confirm that in the 2013/14 financial year alone, the total payout was £1.2 billion. However, with just £287 million paid in the year 2003/04, the scale of medical negligence in the UK’s health body is increasing at a concerning rate.

Peter Walsh, chief executive of the patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents, has argued that the growing scale of payouts is a cause for concern. He said:

“Clinical negligence is a huge and growing strain on the finances of the NHS, but the human cost is far greater. Further, millions could be saved if there were more honesty and earlier admissions of liability.”

While the financial pressures of the NHS are well documented, many argue that reducing instances of clinical negligence could help lower the NHS’ total spend. While such medical blunders are often unavoidable, it is argued that NHS chiefs should be quicker to admit their mistakes.

Jonathan Wheeler, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, has claimed that the NHS could make savings to its compensation bill if it acknowledged when it had behaved negligently. He stated:

“There are cases where the NHS needs to admit liability straight away and make an interim payment and then put in place some meaningful rehabilitation. If the NHS did that, then patients would get better more quickly [and] the damages would not be so much”.

Improving the way patients are treated in hospital

Medical and hospital negligence lawyer and claims expert, Laura Thompson, comments on the importance of treating patients with care and acknowledging and dealing with negligence as early as possible.

“These figures show us that claims against the NHS cost a considerable amount of money. It is in everyone’s interests to reduce the cost of these matters, so that more money can go to front-line services within the NHS. As well as reducing these avoidable medical mistakes in the first place, the way that patients are treated when something does go wrong could go a long way to reducing the value of litigation to the public purse. The NHS Litigation Authority is already supporting NHS England by encouraging a reduction in harm to patients through learning from previous incidents and claims made.

In the majority of cases involving medical negligence, victims who pursue claims are not simply seeking money. Often, they initially want an explanation of what went wrong and why. They may want an apology and they want to make sure that it will not happen again to someone else. Beyond this, the compensation they seek is to enable them to have sufficient treatment, care and support to recover from the injury or to cope with their condition in the future.

On 29 June 2015, the GMC and the NMC released guidance on the statutory “duty of candour” imposed upon hospital, community and mental health trusts by Regulation 20 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. The regulation is intended to ensure that these medical and psychological service providers are open and transparent with patients using their services. When something goes wrong with care and treatment, there are specific things that must now be done by the providers, including informing people about the incident, providing reasonable support, providing truthful information and an apology.

Medical practice depends upon the good people carrying out the service and mistakes can be made. We are all human, after all. If an explanation and apology is provided when something does happen, a number of claims against the NHS could be avoided.”

How to obtain a compensation payout for medical or hospital negliegnce

You are entitled to expect a certain standard of treatment from those providing medical assistance to you. If this treatment falls below standard you may be entitled to recover the cost of the private medical treatment needed to correct the failings on the part of those originally treating you. Our goal at IBB Solicitors is to obtain justice for victims of the negligence by others, by securing compensation that reflects their pain and suffering, as well as related financial losses including loss of earnings, treatment costs and specialist care costs.

If you want to enquire about making a hospital, dentist or GP negligence claim, please contact one of our medical negligence solicitors on 01895 207835 or 01895 207295.

Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the accident/clinical negligence and the injuries sustained to malcolm.underhill@ibblaw.co.uk and one of our team will be able to help you.