Scarborough’s NHS trust has paid out £46 million in medical negligence cases in the past five years, shock figures reveal.
Since April 2012, the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has paid out £46,244,959 for cases dating as far back as April 1995.
This includes £30,025,933 in damages, £3,705,620 in defence costs and £12,513,406 in claimant legal fees.
And the costs of damages have been rising from £4 million in 2012/13 to more than £8 million in 2016/17.
Legal fees for the trust have also risen from around £1.5m to almost £5m. As critics say, too often the NHS does not admit liability and faces larger legal fees when it has to pay both its own and the claimants’ costs upon losing cases.
The trust, which runs hospitals in Scarborough, Bridlington and York, is rated 46th out of 258 trusts for the highest costs in the UK and is placed eighth out of 23 trusts in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Barts Health NHS Trust in London has the highest costing cases, with a total of £118,485,470.
While a Yorkshire trust, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, was second having racked up payout bills of £105,652,526.
A spokesperson for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Safe, compassionate care is our upmost priority. When things go wrong, as regrettably they do in all health care settings, our first responsibility is to those affected.
“As is the case for other NHS trusts, we have indemnity through the NHS Resolution which covers the cost of paying out for a successful clinical negligence claim.
“We work closely the NHS Resolution and the wider NHS to actively learn lessons from serious incidents, complaints and claims of clinical negligence. The Trust settles claims relating to a wide variety of incidents, for which there are no specific trends, and the value of damages is person specific as it relates to their personal loss.”
The bill for all types of medical negligence claims in England has risen four-fold in 10 years to £1.6 billion in 2016-17.
Across England, NHS medical blunders dating back more than two decades are still costing tens of millions of pounds a year in damages.
And in the past five years, the Department of Health has paid out £152 million, including legal fees, to victims of mistakes made before April 1995 in England.
Why are costs so large?
In 2016/17, half the money the NHS spent on payouts for medical blunders were linked with maternity and neonatal care, despite these incidents only representing around 10% of all claims in England.
Claims for avoidable cerebral palsy are “undoubtedly the most expensive” of maternity claims and can exceed £20 million per claim, according to a report by NHS Resolution.
A spokesperson for NHS Resolution said: “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.
“Whilst thankfully, these incidents are very rare, each one offers an opportunity for learning in order to prevent the same thing happening again.”
This year, NHS Resolution 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.
NHS Resolution is continuing to receive new claims under its historic scheme for incidents which occurred before April 1, 1995.
The spokesperson added: “Furthermore, the cost of these historic claims has risen due to factors such as increasing life expectancy and more recently, a change to the court discount rate.”
Now the organisation is involved in cases to support families from the start.
What action is the Government taking?
The Department of Health and NHS Resolution, which handles claims on the trusts’ behalf, are proposing measures to cut medical negligence costs in England, including:
•A plan to cap the fees that legal firms can recoup from the taxpayer when they win low-value cases
•A plan 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
•Cash incentives for trusts which take steps to make maternity services safer.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “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.”