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Pregnancy Claims in UK Offer a Worrying Insight into Maternity Care

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by , 09-13-2012 at 11:09 AM (1553 Views)
After a Freedom of Information request, it transpired that the UK’s National Health Service had paid over £70m in compensation for clinical negligence in their maternity department, over the space of three years.

The claims came from families suffering from stillbirth experiences and babies born disabled. Unsurprisingly, such large pay-outs will have a knock-on effect, reducing the financial support of front-line services.

Not only did the damages amount to over £70m, but also cost the taxpayer an extra £3m in legal fees.

An official from the Scottish government commented that the negligence claims were a learning curb for the NHS.

The 96 cases still open in June 2011 all pertain to either stillbirths and disabilities caused by the slipshod behaviour of NHS staff, either during pregnancy or childbirth.

44 cases were closed without any compensation paid.

No-one Held Accountable

Conservative health spokesman, Jackson Carlaw admitted that no-one had received disciplinary action for negligence, and so the costs kept rising.

The true cost to the parents that have experienced this malpractice exceeds anything the NHS can compensate. The NHS should start focusing on preventative measures, rather than hiding behind the protection of compensatory packages.

Pay-outs to families suffering from malpractice in the maternity sector account for more than two-thirds of Scotland’s total medical negligence, and increasing numbers of people are contacting their inquest solicitors.

It is thought that staffing shortages are directly responsible for these catastrophic mistakes, as medical professionals are often overworked to make up the gap. The number of maternity staff in Scotland has dropped by 3,000 over these three years.

£10m can go on delivery mistakes, such as breaking a newborn’s spinal cord with forceps, or not delivering a baby on time.

With risks like this, cutting the number of midwives in the NHS is a bad move. Scotland is introducing a ‘world-leading national patient safety programme’ to tackle the issue of negligence in the NHS.

Ten years ago, total compensation pay-out stood at £50,000 a week. Now it is over £520,000.

The NHS and Cuts

After the coalition government’s cuts to this important public service, nurses said that they were caring for up to 14 patients each and there was not enough staff to do the job to a sufficient standard. On average, nurses work 13 hour shifts.

In the government’s attempt to draw £20bn from health services, they are sucking the NHS dry. Nursing numbers directly affect patient care, so it is little wonder that the NHS is paying big bucks in compensation for staff negligence.

NHS managers even want to instigate a 5% pay cut, end overtime payment, minimise holidays, and force longer shifts.

NHS leaders from 19 organisations have joined together to force the cuts. They believe they can weather the ‘extremely hostile’ reaction expected from already overworked and underpaid staff.

Unions are rallying in response, and already, demonstrations have been taking place.

There was talk of axing all contracts and reemploying staff based on the new, slashed terms, but the NHS is concerned that this will give nurses fuel to sue them.