Hospitals' £11m negligence claim payouts

Clinical negligence claims against hospitals in the region cost the NHS almost £11m last year, figures show. Almost £8.5m was paid out on behalf of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust, the sixth largest damages claim against any hospital trust in the country.

Clinical negligence claims against hospitals in the region cost the NHS almost £11m last year, figures show.

Almost £8.5m was paid out on behalf of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust, the sixth largest damages claim against any hospital trust in the country.

Damages and legal fees for claims against the hospital's obstetrics department totalled £7.5m, the highest paid out on behalf of any English obstetrics department.

In all, payments to patients on behalf of the N&N cost £6,194,154, and a further £2,290,169 was spent on legal fees.

A total of 93 claims were brought against hospitals in the region during the 2006-07 financial year, according to figures released by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA).

While the N&N received 29 claims, the James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston received 25 claims and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn 21 claims.

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But the sum paid by the N&N was a marked rise on 2005-06, when the bill was less than £2m.

Andrew Stronach, head of communications at the N&N, said: “The figures will vary year from year dependent on having a case settled that involves a large payment. In 2006-07, we had the Warrilow obstetric case and this is reflected in the total payout figure for that year.”

In April 2006, Jayne Warrilow, 39, received £2m after suffering a bladder injury during the birth of her son Jacob at the N&N in 2001. Ms Warrilow said she was left psychologically traumatised and had to quit her job as business director for the Maier Partnership in Norwich.

Mr Stronach said the Warrilow case was “a one-off, a blip” and it was “very important to us to maintain a very high focus to provide the best quality of care”.

Hospitals pay an annual insurance premium to the NHSLA which handles claims of negligence against NHS bodies in England.

Almost £1m was paid out on behalf of the James Paget and £560,226 on behalf of the West Suffolk at Bury St Edmunds. Wendy Slaney, medical director at the James Paget, said: “The trust has rigorous processes in place to minimise the risks that occur daily in every activity undertaken. This results in a better quality of care for patients and a safer environment.”

The NHSLA also paid out £776,633 on behalf of the QEH in Lynn, £299,159 in damages and a further £477,474 in legal fees.

Richard Humphries, communications manager at the hospital, said: “The complaints represent just 0.1pc of our overall trust activity, although clearly even a single complaint is one too many. However, we are always striving to improve our performance and we investigate any complaint thoroughly so that we can make improvements for the future.”

Sarah Westwood, a clinical negligence specialist at Morgan Jones and Pett solicitors in Norwich, said: “We have not noticed a significant rise in people seeking clinical negligence… These cases are important, patients can suffer catastrophic injuries and will need care for the rest of their lives, and it can affect the whole family.

“People feel more uncomfortable suing a hospital than say the driver of a car who has driven into the back of their vehicle and caused injury. However, the same principle applies that where someone's negligence has caused injury, the injured person is entitled to be compensated for those injuries which, in some cases, can be significant and life changing.”

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