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Ipswich: Hospital in shock £4.5million compensation bill

PUBLISHED: 18:24 14 August 2012

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BLUNDERS by staff at Ipswich Hospital's maternity unit resulted in compensation pay-outs of nearly £4.5million last year, The Star can reveal today.

The figures have prompted one patients’ group to highlight “serious concerns” about safety, the training of clinicians and the management of the hospital board.

The pay-outs relate to claims settled by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) on behalf of the trust, which are the result of cases where a baby has died, suffered brain damage or disability, or mistakes that have caused injury to mothers during labour.

A hospital spokeswoman said the large sums of money involved reflected the need to cover the growing cost of care and treatment required to support a disabled child or mother over the course of their lives.

In 2011/12 five new claims against Ipswich Hospital were reported relating to obstetrics – the care of babies and mothers during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period.

A total of £4,354,000 – a jump of around 167 per cent on the previous year – was paid out by the NHSLA on behalf of the trust for settled claims. These could date back a number of years.

In comparison, in 2010/11 £1,627,000 was paid out by the NHSLA. Five new claims were reported against the Heath Road trust during the period.

Last year the total clinical negligence compensation pay-outs, for mistakes made across the trust as a whole, totalled £5,962,979.

That figure was almost double the £2,938,174 bill from the previous year.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of The Patients Association, said with the NHS facing £20billion efficiency savings it was vital money was spent on improving care rather than paying for mistakes.

However, Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Ingle said only a small number of claims relating to the maternity unit were received each year.

“The sums of money awarded tend to be relatively high as they often include a lifetime’s care needs.

“We work very closely with the NHS Litigation Authority and the claimants’ solicitors to make sure that all medical negligence claims are progressed in a timely manner.

“The need to assess the long-term needs of the child is usually why it takes a long time to settle the claim.”

Each year hospitals in the UK pay an amount of money – similar to insurance – to the NHSLA to cover any claims settled against them.

Nationally the bill for blunders made on NHS maternity wards has nearly doubled in the last year, reaching more than £420million.

The NHSLA paid out £422.9m in obstetric compensation and legal fees last year compared with £234.8m the previous year.

n Have you been affected by medical negligence? What are your experiences of Ipswich Hospital? Write to health reporter Lizzie Parry at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail lizzie.parry@archant.co.uk

A NATIONAL patients’ group has condemned high compensation pay-outs by health trusts – claiming they raise “serious concerns” about patient safety.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of The Patients Association, told The Star: “High or rising compensation pay-outs by any trust raises serious concerns about patients safety, the training of clinicians and the management of the board.

“Given the financial pressures on the NHS, with the government driving through £20billion in efficiency savings, funding must be spent on improving standards of care not on compensation after mistakes have been made.

“These deaths and errors are avoidable, for example by maternity units around the country having staffing numbers that will ensure the highest quality of patient care and safety.”

LAST October The Star revealed hospital bosses had agreed to pay nearly £7million compensation to an east Suffolk boy who was left with catastrophic brain injuries by the negligent management of his birth.

Seven-year-old, Luke - not his real name - suffers from Cerebral Palsy and Dystonia after his brain was starved of oxygen during delays to his delivery at Ipswich Hospital in 2004.

A High Court judge approved a £6.94m compensation pay-out to cover the immense cost of the 24-hour care he will need for the rest of his life.

The complications at his birth mean he cannot sit, stand or grab with his hands.

Luke also suffers speech impairment and has learning difficulties, but goes to his local primary school, which caters for his needs.

The trust agreed to pay him a £3.25m lump sum, as well as £124,000-a-year in index linked tax-free payments to cover the costs of his care.

Those payments will rise in steps to £175,000-a-year in 2023, as his care needs increase.

The money will compensate Luke for his future loss of earnings, as well as paying for specially-adapted accommodation, specialist equipment, speech and language therapy and round-the-clock care.

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