NHS trusts pay out £80m in compensation for maternity negligence

Dr Dan Poulter

Dr Dan Poulter, who is concerned about maternity negligence pay-outs. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Nearly £80million in compensation has been paid out for claims involving maternity care at NHS trusts, according to latest figures. 

Claims made against East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) - which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals - and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust dating back to 2015 have resulted in pay-outs of £57.2m and £21.3m respectively by the litigation authority NHS Resolution. 

Last year alone (2020-21), ESNEFT received 12 claims relating to obstetrics and paid out £10.9m in compensation, representing 12% of the total number of claims received by the trust, which was 102. 

At the West Suffolk Trust, which runs West Suffolk Hospital, between four and 14% of the 28 claims in 2020-21 related to obstetrics, equating to a total of £1.1m in compensation. 

Ipswich hospital's maternity block which was built to echo one founded in Norwich Picture: John Nor

ESNEFT - which runs Ipswich Hospital - has paid out £57m. - Credit: JOHN NORMAN

Meanwhile, total pay-outs for claims against NHS trusts in neighbouring Norfolk over the same period were £51m.

The data is contained in a report by NHS Resolution, which pays out compensation from premiums received from NHS Trusts.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter said he was concerned about the figures and that it was important that trusts learned lessons to ensure that mistakes were not repeated. 

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He said: “I am always concerned to see money being paid out in a clinical negligence settlement rather than being spent directly on patient care and behind each episode, each clinical settlement, is a human story of something that has gone wrong and when things have gone wrong in the health service, it is very important that lessons are learned so improvements can be put in place in the future.” 

Dr Poulter, who is an NHS doctor working in mental health services, said the total payments can seem high in obstetrics because a small number of claims can lead to large pay-outs due to the need to cover the cost of lifelong care. 

West Suffolk Hospital will be rebuilt as part of the governments pledge to provide 40 new hospitals by 2030 Picture...

West Suffolk Hospital - Credit: Archant

He added: “It is very important that we recognise that there are human lessons and human tragedies behind those figures and there are always things we can do to improve patient care and experience and it is very important that the clinical cases that led to these settlements are properly investigated and that appropriate lessons are learned. 

“However, we should not be taking away from the fact that the vast majority of families supported by maternity services are well looked after and we have got some good staff who do that, day in and day out."

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said: "Any failure to provide reasonable care or failure that causes someone to suffer harm as a result of the care they received is, of course, a concern. My thoughts are with all those who have received inadequate care. I know West Suffolk Hospital are doing all they can to keep those in their care safe."

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at ESNEFT, said: “ESNEFT is one of the largest healthcare trusts in the east of England and our priority is to provide safe and compassionate care to the communities we serve in east Suffolk and north east Essex.

“About 6,800 babies are born in our hospitals every year and many of our families say they receive excellent or good care. Sometimes though, in a minority of cases, we could have done things differently. If something does go wrong, we fully investigate what has happened and use any lessons learned to improve our services.

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock will find life outside government very different.

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“Obstetric claims are usually associated with life-long support for a child’s care and living costs and they require a higher sum of compensation. They are often delayed and will be dependent on a child’s development milestones, with interim payments being made until a settlement is agreed.

“We work closely with NHS Resolution to make sure any claims are processed as quickly and fairly as possible."

Sue Wilkinson, chief nurse at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Every one of our patients deserves safe, high quality care.

"Very occasionally something does go wrong and we apologise to families where we have fallen short of the standards we strive for and they expect. On those rare occasions, we owe it to everyone affected to investigate thoroughly, learn lessons and make any recommended changes to continue to improve the healthcare we provide.”

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