Hospitals cost NHS £6m in compensation

DAMAGES claims against hospitals in the region cost the NHS more than £6million last year, it has emerged.

Russell Claydon

DAMAGES claims against hospitals in the region cost the NHS more than £6million last year, it has emerged.

Half of all the money paid out for the five major hospitals in the area came from claims filed at Colchester, with Ipswich more than doubling payments compared to the previous year, according to figures released by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA).

A total of 87 negligence claims were brought against hospitals in 2007/08 amounting to an average of £68,980.47 per claimant across Colchester, Ipswich, James Paget, Papworth and West Suffolk.

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The figures show that the NHSLA paid out £3.16m on behalf of Colchester Hospital - more than £150,000 per claim.

It also paid out £1.34m on behalf of Ipswich Hospital, a 213% rise on the 2006/07 figure of £429,406.

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At Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire the NHSLA paid out £395,083 while the figure was £824,406 at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston.

Meanwhile at West Suffolk Hospital the payment was £271,306 for last year, a drop of 51.57% from 2006/07.

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said they were committed to providing high quality patient care and a safe environment.

“Our trust is an open and transparent organisation and on the few occasions when mistakes do occur, we have the right mechanisms in place to ensure that lessons are learned and disseminated throughout the organisation,” he said.

He added that it was not possible to say the rise was a result of claims resulting from people contracting superbug infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

An Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman said: “We take patient safety extremely seriously and all claims are managed in accordance with the NHSLA guidelines.

“This 2007/08 figure gives a picture for that particular year. However, although it's tempting to look at the data as a league table it can be misleading to take one single year out of context.

“As described in the report's detailed introduction, the figures can include claims made in previous years but settled in the report year. The report does not give an indication of how many claims the payment relates to, or of how complex the cases are.”

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust said the total number of claims which they receive is a very small percentage of their annual workload, equating to less than one in 4,000 admissions or attendances and that care and well-being is a key priority.

The NHSLA was established in 1995 and is responsible for handling negligence claims made against NHS bodies in England.

Hospitals pay an insurance premium every year which is measured depending on various risk management standards and the type of hospital it is. This means they do not pay claimants directly.

The NHSLA declined to comment last night.

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