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True cost of health negligence claims revealed by reporter's FOI probe

A tip-off about a hospital negligence claim led Kentish Gazette reporter Alex Claridge to investigate the true cost of such claims through the Freedom of Information Act.

He found the bill to the health authority was £30m in the past ten years.

His story revealed that litigants can be guaranteed an out of court settlement provided they do not make public details of their complaints against the trust.

Alex said: “I heard from a friend that she knew of someone who had been awarded £12,000 by the East Kent Hospitals Trust in an out of court settlement after the woman’s pregnancy was botched. A condition of her receiving the money was that she agreed to never go public with her story.

“That prompted me to wonder just how much money the trust has paid out in clinical negligence claims.

“An FOI request revealed that the figure was £30m in a decade.”

His story on the investigation is published below:

Legal claims against the East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust have resulted in £30m being paid out to litigants in the last decade, we can exclusively reveal.

Using the newly-created Freedom of Information Act, we have been able to discover the amount paid out against the trust can be over £7m a year. In the financial year 2003/4, the trust had £7.5m awarded against it.

The previous year the figure was £2.6m and for the year 2001/2, £7.9m. For the year 2004/5, the trust paid another £5m.

Most of the payouts relate to cases of children injured at birth while many of the others can be linked directly to three high-profile and damaging scandals.

These are:

  • The cervical smear scandal at Kent and Canterbury Hospital in which women were told they did not have cancer when in fact they did
  • Clifford Ayling, who was behind a series of clinical bungles and behaved in a sexually aggressive manner towards patients and staff
  • Gynaecologist Rodney Ledward who sexually assaulted his female patients.

    David Shortt, chairman of the campaign group Concern for Health in East Kent, is not surprised that so much has been awarded against the trust.

    He said: “This is hardly an indication of a happy, healthy service providing decent care.

    “But of course many of these payments will be down the Ledward, Ayling and cervical smear cases. One imagines that east Kent has had rather heavier payouts than other trusts because of these cases.”

    Litigants can be guaranteed an out of court settlement provided they do not make public details of their complaints against the trust.

    The East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust says it provides decent standards of care and that the level of payouts does not reflect badly upon it.

    A spokesman said: “We regret that mistakes which caused patients problems and distress occurred and have already apologised to the individuals concerned.

    “Much of the compensation has been paid for a series of one-off incidents which we have learnt important lessons from and which we believe will never happen again.”