Bury St Edmunds: Pay outs for clinical negligence claims at West Suffolk Hospital totals �4.5m

CLINICAL negligence claims at West Suffolk Hospital have cost more than �4.5million, an East Anglian Daily Times investigation has revealed.

According to figures from the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), claims made by patients or their families led to the body footing a �4,663,034 compensation bill in the 2011/12 financial year.

The payouts, which represent compensation costs and do not include legal fees, are much less than the �1,254,986 from the previous 12 months and completely dwarf the �697,433 bill paid out in 2009/10.

Of the claims received by the NHSLA in the past three years, which have resulted in separate compensation payouts, incidents have occurred in areas including obstetrics, casualty, gynaecology and orthopaedic surgery.

Councillor Alan Murray, a member of Suffolk County Council’s health scrutiny committee, said he was concerned by the figures.

“Such an increase in claims would be worrying and warrant a very close investigation to ensure that avoidable causes are looked at closely,” he added.

The Trust received a Level Two in its most recent NHSLA assessment meaning it is doing more to protect patients from harm.

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A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust said that the care and wellbeing of its patients is of “paramount importance” to the hospital and that every effort is made to ensure safety at all times.

“We have extensive action plans in place to minimise risk and work hard to promote a culture which puts patient safety first among our staff,” he added.

“The national trend has seen the number of clinical negligence claims increase over recent years. However, as claims take some time to settle, the figures provided in the FOI date back several years and do not relate to the number of incidents taking place in the years in which the payments were made.

“It is important that we are able to compensate patients and their families should it become necessary. We are insured against claims for clinical negligence, and all settlements are paid by the NHS Litigation Authority.”

A spokesman for NHSLA, which also works to improve risk management practices, said: “A claim will usually be brought some time after the incident has occurred, often several years later, so the reasons for the claims will only provide historical information and will not reflect the situation in the trust at the time of the claim.”

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