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Medical negligence payouts in Norfolk fall but still cost £4m

PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 February 2020

The amount of money Norfolk and Suffolk hospitals as well as mental health and ambulance trusts had to pay out due to medical negligence has been revealed. Picture: Archant

The amount of money Norfolk and Suffolk hospitals as well as mental health and ambulance trusts had to pay out due to medical negligence has been revealed. Picture: Archant

Archant

More than £4m was paid out by the county’s main NHS organisations due to medical negligence last year, new figures reveal.

But the majority of Norfolk NHS services saw drastic decreases in the amount paid out in 2018/19 after more than 100 successful claims.

Hospital chiefs said any claims paid out are footed by litigation authority NHS Resolution, not the trust. The payments made may relate to claims made in earlier financial years.

In 2017/18 more than £24m was forked out following 114 successful claims.

Norwich's biggest hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), has seen the cost fall from more than £8m over 49 clinical negligence claims to £1.3m for 41 successful claims.

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Professor Nancy Fontaine, NNUH chief nurse, said the hospital hospital's mortality rate was the third best in the East of England and they carried out a programme to ensure lessons were learnt.

She said: "Patient safety is our top priority and our staff work hard to provide the best possible care for the one million patients we serve.

"When something does go wrong we always fully investigate and learn from the findings."

The James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, saw its payouts decrease the most, down from £10m in 2017/18 to £2.9m in 2018/19.

Lucy Wheatley, the daughter of Sheila Coley who died after a fall at the West Suffolk Hospital due to mistakes made by the hospital  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDLucy Wheatley, the daughter of Sheila Coley who died after a fall at the West Suffolk Hospital due to mistakes made by the hospital Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Julia Hunt, director of nursing at the hospital, said: "Figures for each year can fluctuate as cases may take different lengths of time to reach resolution.

"We always aim to deliver safe and compassionate patient care and, as such, we take all possible steps to minimise the occurrence of incidents that might result in a claim."

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn saw a nearly 50pc fall in successful claims and the cost in damages which reduced from £1.1million in 2017/18 to £546,000 in 2018/19.

Carmel O'Brien, director of patient safety, said: "We recognise that when we get things wrong it can be distressing for our patients and their families, for which we apologise. We listen carefully to concerns raised by our patients and their families and strive to consistently learn from our mistakes. While there is always more we can do, we hope the reduction in claims, along with our strengthened incident management protocol and reassurance from external auditors who have found no underlying issues of concern, goes some way to reassuring our patients that we are making positive progress."

Lucy Wheatley, the daughter of Sheila Coley who died after a fall at the West Suffolk Hospital   Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDLucy Wheatley, the daughter of Sheila Coley who died after a fall at the West Suffolk Hospital Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

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The biggest spender was the West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, which had a bill of £9.1million for 19 clinical negligence claims in 2018/19.

A Thetford family were among patients who received settlements last year after their loved one died from a fall in hospital.

Sheila Coley died days after arriving at West Suffolk Hospital for an unrelated illness.

The hospital saw its costs balloon from £895,000 to over £9million in the last year.

Her daughter Lucy Wheatley said: "People go to clinical negligence lawyers not initially for financial gain but for answers that are often not forthcoming from the hospital, and for a sense of justice.

"Especially in the case of unnecessary, avoidable deaths like my poor mum.

"I know without our solicitor we would not have discovered the full extent of an event that led to mum's death. Transparency is a real issue, and grieving families have to fight for the truth, not a watered down version of it."

West Suffolk Hospital bosses said they worked with NHS Resolution to ensure claims were resolved quickly and learn from what happened.

They added: "We'd like to reiterate our sincere and heartfelt apologies to Mrs Coley's family.

"It was our duty to make sure we learned from what happened, and to implement that learning across the trust - we have increased the level of checks required for patients when they arrive in a ward, such as their need for bed side-rails or other equipment to help prevent falls. We have also carried out extensive additional training with staff on the ward.

"We do not underestimate the impact this very sad incident has had, and will continue to have, on Mrs Coley's family and we continue to offer them our deepest sympathies."

Mental health trusts the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) had bills of £680,000, rising from £422,500 in 2017/18.

Dawn Collins, deputy chief nurse for NSFT, said: "Our staff work very hard to support people so that they receive good quality care when they need it. Some 48,000 people in Norfolk and Suffolk receive services from NSFT staff every year. Unfortunately, there are times when things do go wrong.

"We want to learn to do better, share that learning across the trust and make improvements wherever we can."

The East of England Ambulance Service recorded the lowest in the region with £637,994 of payouts.

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