£10.8M paid out in damages by Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust following serious mistakes in care
Millions of pounds in damages were paid out last year following serious mistakes in care at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, figures reveal.
Someone can bring a claim against an NHS trust if it is believed they, or a family member, suffered harm or died due to negligent treatment.
Data from NHS Resolution, which handles such cases on behalf of the NHS, reveals 51 clinical negligence claims against University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust were successful in 2019-20.
A total damages bill of £10.8 million was paid out in relation to these claims over the year, while further legal costs totalled £602,042.
Successful claims against the trust were up 21% compared to the 42 reported in 2018-19, when £6.9 million was paid in damages.
The Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts, administered by NHS Resolution, handles all negligence claims against members for incidents which happened after April 1 1995. This means claims could be settled for harm which occurred years before.
Trusts pay into the scheme on a pay-as-you-go basis to cover the bill due each year.
Sue Smith, OBE, executive chief nurse and deputy chief executive at UHMBT, said: "We are always upset when things go wrong, and if patients are harmed by our actions then it is absolutely right that they seek compensation. Our aim is that every patient is treated by us like they are a family member.
"We take safety and quality extremely seriously and we will continue to work to ensure that we make every effort to improve and learn when things go wrong. We apologise to any families affected as behind these figures are people. It is important understand however that it can take months or years for cases to be completed."
In a report, Ian Dilks, chairman of NHS Resolution, said the price of negligence across the NHS remains "the elephant in the room" despite the overall cost of harm for clinical negligence falling to £8.3 billion nationally, down from £9 billion in 2018-19.
He said: "We continue to play our part in reducing the cost of claims through actions to improve both patient safety and the way incidents and complaints are handled but, as a National Audit Office report published in 2017 concluded, any strategy to tackle the drivers of cost will need to include legal reform.
"We hope that through reform, a way can be found to significantly reduce the cost to the public purse at no detriment to justice."
In January, the Government is due to publish its review of a consultation on fixed recoverable costs – the amount of money the winning party of a claim can request from the losing party – for claims less than £25,000. Recoverable legal costs for clinical negligence claims are currently uncapped.
Overall, NHS Resolution was notified of 49 formal negligence claims against the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay in 2019-20, as well as 16 further incidents which could result in a claim.
Of those, between one and four were related to obstetrics – care provided during pregnancy and childbirth. An approximate number is recorded where the number of claims is below five, to prevent identification of individual patients.
Earlier this year, the Medical Defence Union, which provides support and advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare workers, warned the number of claims against the NHS could increase following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Michael Devlin, the union's head of professional standards and liaison, said: "Every example of negligence takes its toll on the patients and families involved, but the compensation being paid out puts enormous pressure on NHS funding, especially at a time when the NHS needs to recover from the pandemic."