Maternity mistakes costs East Anglia’s NHS more than £16m - as government sets out plans for new compensation scheme

Babies can be left with lifelong injuries and conditions if they experience negligent care in hospit

Babies can be left with lifelong injuries and conditions if they experience negligent care in hospital. Photo:Antony Kelly. EN news EN pics © 2008 (01603) 772434 - Credit: Evening News © 2008

Pay-outs to maternity patients in East Anglia as a result of bad care has doubled in the last ten years - as the government proposes a new compensation scheme to families.

The figures, published by the NHS Litigation Authority, also show a rise in the number of claims against the region's six acute hospitals since 2007 - which one expert attributed to more public awareness of their legal rights.

Meanwhile the government yesterday announced plans for a new voluntary compensation scheme which it hopes will help end what it sees as a 'litigation culture'.

However those plans were slammed by Sandra Patton, a medical injury lawyer based in Thetford, who accused the government of 'squeezing the rights of patients from every angle'.

Figures from the 2015/16 financial year shows nearly £17m was paid out on behalf of the region's acute hospitals to claimants who have experienced negligence in obstetrics (maternity).

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This amount includes damages plus the legal costs of dealing with claims and includes regular payments made due to previous years' settlements.

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, yesterday said the new compensation scheme would work out far cheaper from the NHS and rejected claims that it would remove people's rights.

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Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain he said: 'We have a litigation culture, people are worried they might get fired, they're worried about the reputation of their hospital, and the one thing that everyone wants to do, and parents are passionate should happen, which is lessons should be learned - is the thing we make most difficult.'

The scheme, which will be the subject of a public consultation, would assess around 500 cases every year.

Other measures outlined yesterday included maternity ratings for every part of England, the launch of a new Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, £8 million for training, and a £250,000 maternity safety innovation fund.

Mrs Patton believes the rise in claims against hospitals could be down to growing public awareness of legal rights, and the fact that the NHS is defending more cases - settling only at the last minute to avoid court cases.

She said the new proposed compensation scheme was a smokescreen to cutting costs.

'The only thing this will save is solicitors fees,' she said.

'But the NHS spends so much on solicitors fees because defendants don't admit to mistakes when they should.

'The real aim of this policy is to cut costs. On my past experience of various schemes introduced or mooted by government, it is inconceivable that, if a family chooses the voluntary scheme, they will be compensated as they would if they pursued a legal claim, and I await the details with some interest.

'It is very important for families to appreciate this, for they could be enticed by the promises of rapid resolution and fair treatment, only to find that a few years later there is no money left to meet their child's needs.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Mr Hunt dismissed claims the scheme would limit people's rights.

He said: 'This is a totally voluntary system, so we are not in any way removing people's rights to go to the courts.

'It needs to be a totally attractive and fair alternative to the courts so that people can get on with their lives but, more importantly for the NHS, so that we can also have a more honest, open discussion.'

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