Hospital patients get £4m in compensation payouts

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COMPENSATION payments to patients in St Helens have leapt to more than £4m in just one year.

Official figures show the local NHS trust which runs St Helens and Whiston hospitals has paid out £4.1m last year, a rise of more than £1m on the year before.

The total - which included legal fees and damages to victims of medical errors and other less serious blunders - represents 2.6 per cent of the trust’s annual turnover.

During the 2011/12 financial year, the amount hospital bosses spent on solicitors’ fees defending claims almost doubled from £246,000 the previous year to £437,000.

The figures were complied by the NHS Litigation Authority, the body responsible for compensation. Trust’s across the country have seen an increase in compensation claims but they denied claims this was due to worsening care.

Leading medics blamed no-win, no-fee lawyers for whipping up compensation claims.

Dr Kailash Chand, deputy chair of the British Medical Association, said: “How many operations and nursing staff would this cash pay for? It should be spent on frontline services and care.

“It’s basically money down the drain – and a complete waste, especially when the NHS is under massive strain and budget pressures.”

St Helens and Whiston’s pay-outs have steadily increased from £1.5m on 2003/4 to last year’s record total. But the local trust’s compensation bill is dwarfed by neighbouring hospitals. They received 72 medical claims, up from 48 the previous year, and 31 non-clinical claims, up from 18.

Tameside Hospital in Greater Manchester handed over a whopping £13.7m last year, double on the previous year; while the NHS trust in Wigan paid out more than £10m, a jump of more than £7m.

Settlements include in Greater Manchester including a delay in diagnosing internal bleeding, a swab being left inside a patient’s body following surgery, a hospital fall, a broken jaw sustained during an operation to remove wisdom teeth, failure to diagnose a broken leg and faulty implants used during a breast op.

The local primary care trust also recorded a rise in claims. They received eight claims last year, paying out £94,000 in settlements.

No one from either the NHS trust or the Primary Care Trust were available for comment.