Colchester: Hospital’s negligence claim bill tops �5m

CLINICAL negligence claims at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust have cost just over �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 �5,044,465 clinical negligence compensation bill in the 2011/12 financial year.

The payouts, which represent compensation costs and do not include legal fees, are less than the �6,196,291 total from the previous 12 months but dwarf the costs of �1,187,710 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, orthopaedic surgery and oncology.

MP for Harwich and North Essex Bernard Jenkin said the figures were disappointing.

“This is not only a waste of money but behind every one of these cases is some kind of personal tragedy and the health service must get better at getting things right first time,” he said.

“We are becoming a very litigious society and people will use their opportunity to get satisfaction through the courts and they are entitled to do so.

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“Colchester General Hospital is making huge efforts and is succeeding in raising the morale of staff and improving care for patients.”

A spokesman for the Trust, which runs Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital, said the sites see hundreds and thousands of patients with the vast majority regarding their care as “excellent” or “good”.

“Few, if any, private companies achieve the same levels of ‘customer satisfaction’ as the National Health Service,” he said.

“However, in a tiny minority of cases we do make mistakes. In these circumstances, we are open and admit that we are at fault, apologise and take steps to minimise the same mistakes happening in the future.” The Trust’s maternity services received a level two assessment under the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts and a level two in its most recent NHSLA assessment meaning it is doing more to protect patients from harm.

The spokesman added: “With obstetric cases, compensation is often paid out many years after the mistake is made so some of the compensation payments made in recent years related to mistakes made in the 1990s. In some cases, it is cheaper to pay out compensation without admitting liability than to spend considerable sums of money on a protracted legal tussle.

“This Trust’s key priorities continue to be patient safety and to improve the patient experience. We are focused on working to reduce mistakes and, as far as humanly possible, eliminating them altogether.”

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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