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Damages claims cost Morecambe Bay hospital trust £15.4m
MORECAMBE Bay’s troubled hospital trust has paid out £15.4 million in damages since 2005, figures obtained by the Gazette have revealed.
Health campaigners have been left shocked at the full cost of the clinical negligence claims against the trust.
The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust has paid its insurers, the NHS Litigation Authority, £22.1m for insurance since 2005.
That figure reflects the risk history of the trust, which runs Furness General Hospital, the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Westmorland General Hospital.
The NHS Litigation Authority has paid out more than £22.3m in clinical negligence claims since 2005. This included £15.4m paid in damages and the rest was made up of defence and claimant costs.
The insurers paid out £4.8m relating to clinical negligence claims in the last year alone.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said the amount of money spent because of ‘appalling clinical decisions’ was ‘absolutely immoral’.
However, he warned against blaming the trust’s new management board, including newly-appointed chief executive Jackie Daniel, for the mistakes of predecessors.
South Lakes Health Action secretary Alan Price said he hoped recent changes in management would ‘reverse the trend’ of expensive claims.
He added: “It’s an awful lot of money which could be better spent on patient care.”
James Titcombe, the Dalton father of a newborn baby who died at Furness General Hospital in 2008 said: “I would urge the trust to be absolutely explicit in accepting where it has gone wrong in the past and to ensure that much-needed funds are targeted at the areas that will make the most difference to the quality and safety of patient care; not on defending its past mistakes.”
Trust chief executive Jackie Daniel said unacceptable mistakes had been made and patients had every right to claim for compensation.
She added: “It is important to remember that the year the payment was made is not necessarily the year the incident leading to the claim happened. This makes it difficult to comment on whether an increase in payments directly reflects an increase in actual incidents in the time periods stated.
“Every trust in the country has experienced a rise in the contributions they pay annually to the NHSLA and we are still categorised as being in the expected number of claims bracket for a trust of our size and make up.
“A significant amount of work has been done across the trust to improve the quality of care we offer to our patients and to ensure services remain safe across our hospitals.
“Doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals are now in charge of our clinical services with the appropriate management support, not the other way around, and this is vital in ensuring we offer safe and sustainable services.
“Services at our hospitals are safe and we are doing everything we can to ensure we offer services that are comparable with the best in the country.”
The Westmorland Gazette asked the trust the following detailed questions about the figures - but no specific answers had been given when the Gazette went to press:
- What impact do insurance contributions have on the trust’s annual budget?
- What plans are in place to stop an increase in claims payments in the future?
- Does the trust think it is appropriate to bid for more services (radiotherapy being one) when it is handling an increasing amount of claims?
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust has been the subject of professional and public scrutiny since June last year, when an inquest revealed care failures which failed to prevent the death of Joshua Titcombe.
A police investigation was launched along with an investigation by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC). In October last year, it reported significant shortcomings within the trust.
Five months later, another health watchdog, Monitor, drafted in a new chairman Sir David Henshaw to turn around the organisation. This July, chief executive Jackie Daniel was hired to spur on their efforts.
Last month, the CQC performed another unannounced inspection at Morecambe Bay Hospitals to monitor its progress. The results are expected later this month.