Safety pledge as hospital damages bill tops £7m

Hospital bosses in Hartlepool paid out millions of pounds in damages in the last year following serious mistakes in care, new figures reveal.

Monday, 21st December 2020, 10:03 am
The University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Data from NHS Resolution, which handles such cases on behalf of the NHS, shows North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust paid out £7.3m after 40 clinical negligence claims were successful in 2019-20.

Legal costs totalled another £657,705

NHS Resolution also says it had been notified of 54 formal negligence claims against the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust in 2019-20, as well as 13 further incidents which could result in a claim.

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A spokesperson for the Trust said: “The Trust and all of its clinical staff constantly strive to provide the best possible care for patients.

“Unfortunately, on rare occasions clinical incidents sadly do occur. These are always fully investigated, with learning and support being the objective of these investigations.

“On occasions, claims for financial reverses are made which are reviewed, defended and sometimes settlements are made by the NHS insurance scheme, through NHS Resolution.”

People are able to bring a claim against an NHS trust if they believe they, or a family member, has suffered harm or died due to negligent treatment.

NHS Resolution's clinical negligence scheme for trusts handles all claims against members for incidents which happened after April 1 1995.

This means claims settled in the past year could be the result of incidents which occurred some years before.

Trusts pay into the scheme on a pay-as-you-go basis to cover the bill due each year.

In a report, Ian Dilks, chairman of NHS Resolution, said the price of negligence across the NHS remains "the elephant in the room" and that the price of negligence across the NHS was £8.3bn nationally – down from £9bn in 2018-19.

He said: "We continue to play our part in reducing the cost of claims through actions to improve both patient safety and the way incidents and complaints are handled but, as a National Audit Office report published in 2017 concluded, any strategy to tackle the drivers of cost will need to include legal reform.

"We hope that through reform, a way can be found to significantly reduce the cost to the public purse at no detriment to justice."

In January, the Government is due to publish its review on the amount of money the winning party in a claim can request from the losing party – for claims less than £25,000.

Recoverable legal costs for clinical negligence claims are currently uncapped.

Earlier this year, the Medical Defence Union, which provides support and advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare workers, warned the number of claims against the NHS could increase following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Michael Devlin, the union's head of professional standards and liaison, said: "Every example of negligence takes its toll on the patients and families involved, but the compensation being paid out also puts enormous pressure on NHS funding.

"This is especially the case at a time when the NHS needs to recover from the pandemic."