Revealed – The £70m bill for medical mistakes at our hospitals
Compensation payouts for medical mistakes at Suffolk and north Essex hospitals have cost the NHS nearly £70m, we can reveal today.
Clinical negligence claims made by patients or their families led to a total bill of £69,170,103 from Ipswich Hospital, Colchester Hospital, West Suffolk Hospital and James Paget Hospital over the last three years.
The figures, published by litigation authority NHS Resolution, include the total amount of damages paid for successful claims.
The regional picture
More claims were made at James Paget than anywhere else with 105 payouts over the last three financial years, from 2015 to 2018, with a bill of £28.7m.
Colchester had 95 claims costing £25.7m, Ipswich recorded 88 with a bill of £10.4m while West Suffolk logged 48 costing £4.1m.
Payouts from the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST), Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) and Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT) bring the bill for all seven major healthcare organisations in the region to nearly £80m (£78,856,021).
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Damages paid for errors during childbirth and pregnancy in the same time period came to just under £40m.
Brett Dixon, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said: “It is only right that those who have been needlessly injured, suffered life-changing consequences, or died because of NHS failures are able to seek redress.
“Many of these people will have had their lives shattered.”
Among the larger compensation payouts was a £6.7m lump sum from Ipswich Hospital to an 11-year-old girl – she was born with brain damage, after being starved of oxygen in the womb.
Dr Dan Poulter, who works in the NHS alongside his role as Central Suffolk and north Ipswich MP, said it was important to note that there were far larger bills elsewhere in the UK.
The quality of care provided by our hospitals is considered to be of a high standard by watchdogs, he added.
However, he said: “It is right that when a hospital makes a mistake, every effort is made to make amends.
“These errors are taken extremely seriously by staff, and it is important the NHS learns lessons and prevents mistakes happening again.
“It’s often the case with clinical negligence that there are some particularly high payments, which push the total up quite considerably.”
Payouts for errors made in pregnancy and childbirth can often run into the millions, Dr Poulter said.
He added: “You are funding a lifetime of care – a child is having to live with the consequences, and in some cases, can be left permanently disabled.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous will be raising the James Paget figures at his next meeting with the chief executive, adding that the number of payouts at the Gorleston-based hospital “raises concern”.
What did the NHS organisations have to say?
Ipswich and Colchester hospitals
Dr Crawford Jamieson, medical director at the East Suffolk and north Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs both hospitals, said: “Our priority is to provide safe, high quality, compassionate health services to the 800,000 people we serve.
“The majority of our service users regard the care they receive as excellent or good.
“However, in a minority of cases we could have improved the care given.
“Patient safety and the delivery of high quality care is our top priority and if something does go wrong we fully investigate what has happened and use any lessons learned to improve our services.
“We work closely with NHS Resolution to make sure any claims are processed as soon as possible, in the fairest way.
“However there can be a time lapse between a claim and a settlement so the amount paid out is not a reflection of the claims made in that year, it is the payments which have been made that year.”
West Suffolk Hospital
Nick Jenkins, medical director, said: “We are an outstanding rated organisation that puts patient safety at the heart of everything we do.
“On the rare occasion that something goes wrong we see it as our duty to investigate it thoroughly, learn from what happened, and to support the family involved.
“We work closely with NHS Resolution to ensure claims are processed quickly, as these help to ensure that individual and family future needs are provided for, and that they receive ongoing care and support.”
James Paget Hospital
Director of nursing, Julia Hunt, said: “We aim to deliver safe and compassionate patient care and, as such, we take all possible steps to minimise the occurrence of incidents that might result in a claim.
“If an incident occurs, we carry out a thorough investigation, identify any learning and ensure that our guidelines and practices are in line with national requirements.”
Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust
Stuart Richardson, chief operating officer, said: “Our key priorities continue to be the safety of our service users and improving standards and quality.
“We are focused on working to reduce mistakes and, as far as humanly possible, eliminating them altogether.
“However, we do at times make mistakes.
“In these circumstances, we are open and admit that we are at fault, apologise and take steps to make improvements to minimise the likelihood of the same mistakes happening in the future.”
Essex Partnership University Trust
Nigel Leonard, executive director of corporate governance and strategy at EPUT, said: “Keeping our patients safe is our top priority.
“We carefully consider every claim and get specialist advice as required; NHS Resolution acts on behalf of NHS organisations on compensation issues.
“We take all claims seriously and we have an active programme of learning from them.
He added:“We are always focused on providing the highest standards of care and treatment to all our patients.”
Representatives for the ambulance service did not comment.