New figures show that poor maternity care is costing more then £1 million a day in compensation, having trebled in the last decade.
Payouts for errors during birth have totalled more than £4 billion over the last decade, with up to four in ten maternity units falling below standard and failing to meet basic safety standards, with more than 1,200 children being left with catastrophic brain damage.
According to data from NHS Resolution, NHS Hospitals paid out in almost 7,000 maternity cases between April 2009 and March 2020, more than trebling the annual NHS compensation bill in that period.
These figures include 1,226 children diagnosed with cerebral palsy, 1,070 still births, and payouts to 875 mothers who were left with physical and psychological injuries. Payouts for brain damage sustained at birth often run into millions of pounds per case as children are left with severe disabilities meaning they are unable to work as adults and need constant care for the rest of their lives.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said ‘The NHS has made huge strides in reducing stillbirths and baby deaths but these shocking figures show just how far we have to go. Each one of these incidents means a family devastated by the loss of a baby or life changing brain injury. They need to know lessons will be learnt so that others don’t have to endure the same heartache.
Holly Greenhow was awarded more than £15million in NHS compensation for the injuries she suffered at birth. Holly is unable to walk, cannot control her limbs and her speech is limited.
In July 2018 the High Court awarded Holly, then 12, a £6.4million lump sum, with annual payments expected to take the total compensation to more than £15million over her lifetime. Her mother Fiona, 49, said ‘Albeit we are delighted with the award, no amount of money or apology will ever bring back what we should have had with Holly. There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not regret what happened the day she was born.’
Partner and Solicitor Stuart Bramley, co-head of our specialist medical negligence team said “There are a number of alarming figures in this report but to many people, the most alarming of all is not the £1m paid out every day nor the total apparently paid out during the last decade. It is that over 1,200 children have been left with catastrophic brain damage.
"This is an extraordinary number and each one was avoidable, otherwise compensation would not have been won. Hospitals and their lawyers fight hard in these claims – understandably, since they are only obliged to pay public money to recompense those whose injuries have arisen from negligent care, and negligence must be proven. So must the need for every component of the damages paid in each individual case, which again is hotly contested in these claims.
"But focusing on the figures ignores the human cost. As with Holly Greenhow who features in the Daily Mail article, children who would have been born uninjured but for medical errors prior to or during the birth face a lifetime’s challenge, as do their families. With all of my own clients in this situation, I see constant, unquestioning sacrifice and loving commitment by parents of these children. A safer maternity service across the UK is desperately needed, to avoid the human consequences far more than it is needed to save funds.”
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