NHS faces spiraling medical negligence bill for blunders

After an influx of medical negligence claims alleging that maternity staff blunders have resulted in newborns either suffering disabilities or brain damage or even dying in delivery, the NHS has begun to face spiraling personal injury claims bills.

According to personal injury solicitors, the cost of settling a lawsuit in which an obstetrician or a midwife misinterprets a cardiotocogram (CTG) scan of a newborn’s heart rate has risen from £11.8 million in 2006 to a total of £85.8 million in 2010.  The more than seven-fold hike in personal injury compensation awards reflects improvements in the knowledge of what would be entailed in the lifetime care of a brain-damaged child, records indicate.

Both campaigners for patient safety and doctors say that the increased figures highlight the need for urgent action to be taken in eliminating the kinds of recurring mistakes that can lead to such an easily preventable tragedy.  Both obstetricians and midwives are in need of more complete training in order to increase their knowledge of what should be considered one of the fundamental skills of their job, critics said.

One obstetrician and CTG error expert in south London’s St George’s Hospital stated that while it can be difficult to read CTGs, maternity staffers were simply committing too many mistakes. According to Dr Edwin Chandarahan, approximately 500 children die as a result of mis-read CTGs while an unknown number of additional children go on to suffer cerebral palsy and other related brain damage.

The NHSLA ended up paying out £196.8 million in total by settling more than 100 medical negligence claims in the years between 2006 and 2010.  Out of the 130-odd cases, 78 of them were the result of child death while 43 of the cases ended up developing cerebral palsy from oxygen deprivation due to a mistake in a CTG reading.

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