£8million spent on clinical negligence claims against Ipswich Hospital

Ipswich Hospital on Heath Road, Ipswich.

Ipswich Hospital on Heath Road, Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

Improving training and the care provided to patients in Suffolk will be pivotal in decreasing the amount of money spent on clinical compensation claims.

That was the view of Suffolk MP and health minister Dan Poulter last night as it was revealed £8million was paid out last year on behalf of Ipswich Hospital in relation to clinical negligence claims.

The figure, released by the NHS Litigation Authority, which makes compensation payments on behalf of NHS Trusts, prompted one organisation to call on Dr Poulter to take action to prevent increases in compensation awards.

The £8m figure does not necessarily relate to incidents in 2013/14 and also includes costs – it is based on the March to March accounting year. But Dr Poulter, admitted work does still need to take place around the litigation issue and stressed that high quality care is provided at the Heath Road trust.

He said: “We have got some very dedicated and highly skilled staff at Ipswich Hospital and there has been a lot of good work going on in the hospital to learn from rare occasions in the past when things have gone wrong and make sure things are better for the future.

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“When things go wrong it is right people are compensated because in some cases you are looking at the cost and care for a baby for the rest of its life and that is expensive.

“The focus we have is to get litigation under control – to continue to improve patient safety by improving the training available to staff, look at how to act in an emergency situation and continually improve the way they provide care to patients and to own up when things have gone wrong.”

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The figures have also shown that in 2012/13 a total of £6m was paid out, including damages and costs, while in 2011/12 it was slightly higher than £8m. Just under £4m was paid out by the litigation authority on behalf of the Trust in 2010/11.

The highest of the payouts are thought to be linked to issues around babies and births, where the care of the child needs to be taken into account. Claims could be settled years after the child’s birth.

The pay-outs have been seen by the Medical Defence Union, an indemnifier of doctors, which has said the increasing costs can “no longer be tolerated.

Dr Michael Devlin, MDU Head of professional standards and liaison, said: “The main political parties have made the NHS a key issue in the run up to the election.

“The rising cost of compensation awards made on behalf of Ipswich hospital NHS trust makes a compelling case for action. With support from Dr Poulter and other MPs, we would like to see the problem of spiralling damages awards being raised as part of the debate about how money can be retained in the NHS for the benefit of all patients.”

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital added: “Our first priority is to deliver safe, high quality compassionate care to all of our patients. If we do get something wrong, it is very important to us that we address this immediately, We work closely with the NHS Litigation Authority to make sure that all medical negligence claims are dealt with as soon as possible and in the fairest way. There is often a time lapse of several years between a case being made and a settlement agreed, so variations in amounts paid each year often have nothing to do with an increase in claims.”

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