Costs for NHS negligence have increased dramatically by almost a quarter in just one year. The NHS spent around £800 million last year after a sharp rise in those seeking compensation.
The NHS’s Litigation Authority shows that maternity services are those most targeted for compensation claims. Poor maternity care in London is costing the NHS £27m a year alone, which amounts to a third of the bill for all compensation claims in the capital.
Claims include a five-day-old baby who died after a number of mistakes at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The fact that the baby was upside-down in the womb went unnoticed and staff continued to use the wrong forceps for the procedure. Although the baby was put on a life-support machine, she died shortly after. Her parents, Katherine and Ben Harman, from Battersea, were awarded £50,000 in compensation, but regret that their daughter “could still be alive” if it weren’t for the errors made by the hospital.
Another payment of £600,000 was made to the widow of Jessica Palmer, 34, who died shortly after giving birth at Kingston Hospital in 2002. The hospital admitted liability for her death after admitting they had failed to notice that she was suffering from blood poisoning.
In the case of higher payouts, for example botched births leaving infants disabled, a more structured payout is awarded, compensating them for the care that they will need to receive through their lives.
Official records show that across the NHS, 3,645 patients died of infections contracted whilst in hospital, mistakes whilst undergoing surgery and other medical errors in 2007/2008. This figure was up 60% from two years previously, but it has been reported that figures could be even higher. However, when it comes to compensation for these mistakes, it seems that claimants may be missing out. Figures show that £143m, nearly a fifth of the overall figure paid out, went to lawyers rather than to the victims’ families. It has been claimed that some “no win – no fee” companies are touting for business in A&E waiting rooms across the country.
The Conservative Health spokesman, Mark Simmonds, stated that “we need a robust and fair way for patients who have received negligent treatment in an NHS hospital to get the treatment they deserve. Instead, we have an inefficient system which incurs vast legal costs for NHS trusts.”