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Millions paid over mistakes by NHS bodies serving West Norfolk, new figures show

Queen Elizabeth Hospital - King's Lynn
Queen Elizabeth Hospital - King's Lynn

More than £24 million in damages and legal costs has been paid out for medical mistakes by health bodies serving West Norfolk over the last five years, new figures show.

Over half the total, nearly £14 million, relates to cases involving Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, though its figure is significantly lower than Norfolk’s other main hospitals.

The remainder relates to payments made by the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST), the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCHC) trust.

The figures are contained in data compiled by the BBC, which is being published today, looking at 258 NHS trusts in England.

Between them, a total of £1.6 billion was paid out for the consequences of medical mistakes in the 2016-17 financial year alone.

Figures for the period from 2012-13 to 2016-17 showed cases involving the four trusts serving West Norfolk accounted for almost £24.5 million in payouts, including around £13.8 million associated with the QEH.

Its chief executive, Jon Green, said the figures were due to “large one-off cases” rather than a systemic problem.

He said: “The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has one of the best records in the country for keeping clinical claims to a minimum and resolving them quickly when they do happen.

“We have a strong culture of improvement within the Trust with any clinical errors analysed for opportunities to learn and the relevant departments take this on board.

“Money paid out to claimants in these cases do not come directly from acute trusts but from NHS Resolution.”

The QEH’s figure is also less than half of the £27.8 million recorded for the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston or the £33.2 million at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

The total also equates to around £29 for each consultant episode, which is similar to its neighbouring centres.

The study also shows payouts of around £7.1 million relating to EEAST, £2.95 million for the NSFT, of which nearly half was in 2016-17 alone, and £490,000 for NCHC.

EEAST deputy chief executive Sandy Brown said the trust co-operates fully, offers support to resolve disputes fairly and shares lessons with the wider health service.

He said: “Last year we saw a huge increase in both the number of 999 calls we received and the number of seriously unwell patients we cared for; the figures reported here relate to eight claims across a year when we dealt with more than a million emergency 999 calls, demonstrating the outstanding levels of care that our staff provide to patients.

“It is also important to point out that patients have up to three years to make a claim, so some of these settlements relate to incidents that occurred outside of 2016/17.

“That said, we will of course continue to learn and make improvements wherever we can to improve safety for our patients, and for our staff.”

Dawn Collins, NSFT’s interim director of nursing, said the figures did not show a sudden rise in clinical negligence, within the trust.

She said: “It is not the view of the Trust that more serious mistakes are being made or indeed that the increase reflects a particularly large pay-out.

“Claims of clinical negligence can often take a number of years to conclude through the legal process.

“All of the claims settled in favour of claimants in 2016-2017 relate to incidents that largely pre-date 2014, with only one or two occurring in 2015.”

She added that the data included costs even where no wrongdoing had been found.

An NCHC spokesman said the trust adheres to the Freedom to Speak Up review, which gives staff the chance to raise concerns about safety without fear of repercussions.

She said: “Lessons are learnt and care improves as a result, as evidenced by the fact that we have had not needed to pay any damages for the past two years and that the majority of the previous years’ total came from a service that we no longer provide.

“We would like to reassure our patients that they can be confident in the quality and care that they receive from NCHC, where we aim to provide the best in integrated health and social care.”


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