Historic hospital blunders in Sheffield are still costing the NHS millions in compensation

NHS medical blunders in Sheffield dating back over 20 years are still costing millions of pounds a year in compensation.

Tuesday, 16th January 2018, 8:58 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th January 2018, 2:05 pm
The Northern General, Royal Hallamshire, Jessop maternity wing and Weston Park cancer hospital are under the umbrella of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust paid out £6.2 million between 2012 and 2017 for errors which happened before 1995. Sheffield was ranked the sixth highest for such payments.

Doncaster & Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust came paid out £8.1m - the second highest in England behind Bradford.

Nationally, the negligence bill for mistakes made before 1995 - mainly maternity failings - has begun to rise for the first time in five years.

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A patients' charity said the figures showed just how long some families have to wait for payouts.

The NHS in England has a separate Government-funded scheme to deal with negligence claims for events before April 1995.

Its payouts rose by 13 per cent last year to £27.7m, according to recent data. It is thought increased life expectancy and rising care costs may be behind the rise

Sheffield hospital bosses said all the payouts were cases before the current Trust existed as they were the 'successor' organisation.

David Throssell, Medical Director, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: "The Department of Health meets the cost of these claims through a scheme called ELS. The number and value of the claims for each Trust can vary from year to year because these values are dependent on when historic claims are settled and the type of claim involved.

"On this basis, data relating to the total value of claims should be interpreted with caution, and not be seen as an indicator of the overall quality of care provided by an organisation at a particular point in time, either current or historic.”

Mr Sewa Singh, medical director at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said: “Since 2013/14, we have seen our Existing Liabilities Scheme reduce by almost 50 per cent, year-on-year, as well as reducing and stabilising our Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts.

"The costs are mainly due to a small number of high value historical cases from before April 1995 related to our three main sites, before reorganisation into an NHS Foundation Trust in 2004. “These reductions highlight our improvement journey throughout the past number of years. Examples of our clinical quality improvements include our Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio which has substantially reduced and is much better than the national average, in addition to greatly improving our infection rates at the Trust and vastly reducing preventable harms and serious incidents, with particular success seen in both falls and pressure ulcers.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

The figures were made public after an investigation by the BBC local news partnership analysed litigation payments from NHS trusts across the country.

The Department of Health and NHS Resolution have put forward several measures to cut medical negligence costs in England.

This includes: a plan to cap the fees 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, and cash incentives for trusts which take steps to make maternity services safer.