Hospitals count cost of claims
DAMAGES claims against Suffolk's two main hospitals cost the NHS almost £1million last year, new figures have revealed.The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) forked out £572,740 towards claims on behalf of Ipswich Hospital during 2004/05, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.
By Danielle Nuttall
DAMAGES claims against Suffolk's two main hospitals cost the NHS almost £1million last year, new figures have revealed.
The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) forked out £572,740 towards claims on behalf of Ipswich Hospital during 2004/05, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The total amount of damages paid out on behalf of the hospital was £398,500, with the remainder made up of claimant and defence costs.
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Meanwhile, the NHSLA paid out £286,271 in claims last year on behalf of the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. It is not known how much of that sum was damages to patients.
The NHSLA was established in 1995 and is responsible for handling negligence claims made against NHS bodies in England.
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Hospitals pay a premium every year, which is measured depending on various risk management standards and the type of hospital. This means they do not pay claimants directly.
The litigation figures for last year, released by the NHSLA, show £1,697,190 was paid out on claims on behalf of the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston - £1,326, 531 of which was damages.
It also paid out £41,970 in claims on behalf of the Suffolk Mental Health Trust - £10,750 of which was damages - and £24,595 on behalf of the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust.
Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said the cash to pay litigation costs was in a separate pot to that which provided patient care.
But amid a growing culture of compensation, the hospital has followed the lead of some health trusts across the country in banning advertisements by legal firms on site, which encourage patients to make claims.
Ms Rowsell said: “All of the money in the NHS is very precious but the money that's spent on claims is quite different to the money spent on patient care. It comes from a different pot.
“We try and manage all of the risks and reduce and limit the risks to as little as possible.
“We cannot eliminate all the risks. Economically, if you are paying out millions of pounds every year it has to come from somewhere and it would have to come from the NHS overall.”
She added: “We have a very clear protocol that we do not allow advertising of any professional firms within the accident and emergency department.
“Colleagues up and down the country have had problems with representatives from different organisations leafleting people outside the hospital when they leave. I'm glad to say we have not had that here.
“We have not got any advertising in our hospital which promotes any form of claims or adverts to pursuing claims.”
A spokeswoman for the James Paget Hospital said the figures did not necessarily mean there were more litigation cases against the hospital.
“The overall figure depends on what sort of case it was. It doesn't mean to say there are lots and lots of cases so therefore the James Paget is the worst hospital for litigation,” she said.
“It could be we had a very large claim for something like a damaged baby. Often if there has been a damaged baby the claim itself is very large.
“It doesn't affect our budget. We belong to the insurance premium scheme run by the NHS litigation Authority (Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts.)
“We pay a premium each year to them and they pick up the costs of litigation. It goes up according to your standards and the level of standards you achieve.
“If you're level one, you pay more than you do at level two. We are level two, so we have a reduced premium down to the fact we have attained very good risk management standards,” she added.
A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said in common with hospitals across the country, it did allow solicitors to advertise their services in the hospital's accident and emergency department.
He said the revenue this generates is used to produce high quality information that is used by thousands of patients.
“The Trust is constantly working to minimise risk so that, for example, we hope to achieve Level 2 of the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts (CNST) for maternity services in March next year. We are currently at Level 1,” the spokesman added.
“If we succeed, we will have demonstrated that we have policies and procedures in place to, as far as possible, eliminate risk and this will reduce our premium to the NHS Litigation Authority by more than £100,000.”