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Huge cost of hospital blunders as trust pays out £24.4m last year
OXFORDSHIRE paid more for mistakes and blunders than any other hospital authority last year, as cases rocketed 1,000 per cent in under a decade.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust paid out £24.4m in 2012/13, up from £2.3m in 2003/04, when figures were first published.
It means £113.7m has been paid out over the 10 years.
New trust claims rose from 15 in 2003/04 to 84 last year, though the latest claims are unlikely to yet be among the payouts and not all will get cash.
Major sums are often to cover lifelong care costs for children who suffer brain damage as a result of mistakes during birth.
The trust pays premiums to the NHS Litigation Authority which then pays settlements.
Trust premiums have more than doubled to £15.4m.
The trust was unable to say how many cases the payouts cover but said it is one of England’s biggest trusts and offers complex specialist care.
Last month, brain-damaged Louisa Ravouvou, 10, got £10m partly because John Radcliffe medics failed to spot bleeding on the brain before her birth.
In September, Sophie Collins, 22, got an undisclosed sum because doctors did not realise her bowel had ruptured after a car crash aged 11.
The East Oxford resident – who needs four support workers – was left brain damaged because her brain was starved of oxygen.
Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith said: “The staggering rise in medical negligence claims is a national phenomenon, driven in part by a more litigious culture and no-win, no-fee legal support.”
Yet he warned: “Whilst it is right that the victims of negligence have proper compensation, we have to be careful that this rising tide of claims doesn’t cross the line into penalising clinicians who are undertaking the more complex procedures with some inherent risk of going wrong.”
City solicitor Susan Jarvis, who heads Blake Lapthorn’s clinical negligence team, said about a third of her cases are for parents worried about care costs when they can no longer look after their child as an adult.
“Parents realise they are not going to be able to look after their offspring,” she said. “Looking after a baby is very different from looking after an adult.”
Dushka Kirtland is taking action with husband David against the trust to support brain-damaged son Paul, 30. They believe the damage resulted from an infection he caught at the John Radcliffe at his birth in May 1983.
The trust denies negligence.
Mrs Kirtland told the Oxford Mail: “We worry about what will happen for him when we will no longer be able to look after him.
“It did cross our minds before. We were so busy looking after him. It is only the fact that we have lost our parents and you suddenly realise we are next to shuttle off.”
Richard Money-Kyrle, a partner at Darbys solicitors, said of the rise: “Life expectancy is better for severely disabled children and the cost of care for severely disabled children is much more expensive.”
For example, stricter regulations mean more carers are now required to lift people, he said, while rising demand on hospitals increases risk.
No-win, no-fee deals were allowed from 2000 but solicitors can no longer get “success fees” from the NHS.
Mr Money-Kyrle said the “jury is out” on the impact of this. “It means that probably less low value, modest injury cases will be brought.”
Trust medical director Professor Edward Baker said the trust is one of biggest in the country and is a specialist centre for complex care.
He said: “Providing excellent, safe care for our patients is our top priority and, for the overwhelming majority of the one million patients we see every year at our four hospitals, we achieve this.”
Payouts had risen across England, he said, adding: “This is not a reflection of the quality or safety of our services.”
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