NHS medical blunders dating back more than two decades are still costing tens of millions of pounds a year in damages.
Analysis of pay outs by NHS Resolution has revealed two of our hospital trusts have been implicated in more than £128m of clinical compensation awards.
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) has been associated with £58.7m of pay outs in the last five years in relation to clinical negligence dating back decades.
About £2.6m of the total payouts relate to claims that were made before April 1995 with the remaining £56.1m linked to cases over the past 22 years.
Negligence payouts associated with care at CHFT peaked three years ago at a stunning £18.8m.
More than three-quarters of all the incidents pre-1995 where damages have been awarded are associated with childbirth.
Experts have warned that these same mistakes are still being repeated in labour wards today.
Commenting on the Huddersfield and Calderdale figures, CHFT’s chief nurse Brendan Brown said: “We are always genuinely sorry when care falls short of the levels our patients expect and deserve.
“All our teams here at CHFT are committed to providing our patients with safe, quality care with compassion and we would take this opportunity to apologise again to families who have been let down.
“On these occasions we always investigate to find what can be learned and shared with all relevant teams to ensure the improvements are made.”
Compensation pay outs do not come out of hospital’s core budgets so the local population is not affected.
The money is instead paid by the Department of Health.
CHFT has the fourth highest total payouts in Yorkshire after Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals and Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals.
Leeds was at fault for £110m of claims, second only to Barts Health Trust in London (£123m).
Meanwhile, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals, which includes Dewsbury, has £70.2m of payouts for historic clinical errors.
The bill for all types of medical negligence claims in England – including damages and legal fees – has risen four-fold in 10 years to £1.6 billion in 2016-17.
The Department of Health and NHS Resolution have put forward several measures to cut medical negligence costs in England.
These include a plan to cap the fees that legal firms can recoup from the taxpayer when they win low-value cases, a bid to resolve more medical negligence cases before they go to court, a proposal to introduce a voluntary alternative compensation scheme for infants who have suffered avoidable brain injury at birth and cash incentives for trusts which take steps to make maternity services safer.
A spokesperson for NHS Resolution said: “Incidents in maternity account for 10% of the number of claims we receive each year but 50% of the expected cost of the claims.
“This is because of the very high cost of cases which tragically involve brain damage at birth where provision must be made for life-long and complex care needs.
“While, thankfully, these incidents are very rare, each one offers an opportunity for learning in order to prevent the same thing happening again.
“Our recent report, ‘Five years of cerebral palsy claims’, made recommendations for action which achieved wide consensus and commitment from those involved in maternity care.
“This year we will be offering an incentive payment of up to 10% of a trust’s maternity premium for those who can show that they have implemented 10 maternity safety actions, as set out in the Maternity Safety Strategy.”
The Department of Health commented: “Our relentless drive to improve patient safety, including an ambition to halve the rates of neonatal deaths, stillbirths, maternal deaths and brain injuries caused during or shortly after labour by 2025, will help to reduce traumatic and costly safety failings in the NHS and ensure better protection for patients.
“We’re ensuring taxpayers’ money is spent effectively by taking action against law firms creaming off excessive legal costs that dwarf the damages recovered – but we’re also clear we want to ensure patients continue to access justice at a reasonable cost.”