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NHS maternity compensation tops £90 billion

Ahead of a “harrowing” report into mistakes at the East Kent Hospital Trust, it has been revealed that the NHS faces a potential £90 billion compensation bill for maternity failings.

Following a series of scandals, official figures show the number of claims has risen by almost a quarter in just two years. Data shows that 1,243 maternity negligence claims were made in 2021-22, an increase of over 200 from 1,015 in 2019-20.

Consequently, £90 billion is now being set aside to cover the costs of claims. This means that, in total, 70 percent of total liability provision for 'NHS negligence' is associated with failings in pregnancy and childbirth. The figure, which is equivalent to two-thirds of the NHS annual budget, represents an estimate for the total costs if all claims it expects to settle were paid out, at today’s prices. Safety campaigners said the figures were “staggering.”

Health officials said some of the trends reflected attempts to ensure cases were reported sooner, and changes in the way costs were calculated.  

An independent inquiry into maternity care at the Trust will examine more than 200 cases, following a five-year fight for justice by Derek Richford who said he “came up against a brick wall” while searching for answers over the death of his grandson, Harry.

An inquest into Harry’s death at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate in 2017 found it was avoidable and contributed to by neglect. The trust initially said the death was “expected” and failed to refer the case to coroners. Only the efforts of Harry’s family brought his death to the attention of a coroner, who then found the death was “wholly avoidable”. Last year the trust was fined £733,000 for failures in Harry’s care.

Mothers have told how they felt “blamed” by the hospital for the deaths of their children, with medics dismissing their concerns.  

This month’s report is expected to say that women and babies were left at risk after the NHS had failed to learn lessons from previous maternity scandals. Staff at the trust have been warned of “harrowing” findings, going back more than a decade, which left pregnant mothers in peril.

The review is being led by Dr Bill Kirkup, the same obstetrician who led an inquiry into the Morecambe Bay scandal, which in 2015 made sweeping recommendations to improve maternity care across the NHS.

 “Despite improvements to maternity services over the last decade, with significantly fewer stillbirths and neonatal deaths, we know that further action is needed to ensure safe care for all women, babies and their families. The NHS is ensuring that work is already underway to make these improvements,” an NHS spokesman said.


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