Maternity blunders cost £1m every DAY: Compensation payouts for NHS errors have trebled in the last decade, with up to four in ten baby units falling below standard, new figures show
- Holly Greenhow was awarded more than £15million in NHS compensation
- Her brain was starved of oxygen for some 35 minutes while being born
- Payments for blunders at NHs maternity units have cost more than £4bn
- Four in ten maternity units are failing to meet basic safety standards
Poor maternity care is costing more than £1million a day in compensation, NHS figures show.
Payouts for blunders during birth have totalled more than £4billion over the past decade, with as many as four in ten maternity units failing to meet basic safety standards.
The number of obstetric claims in England has almost doubled during the same period, from 391 in 2009/10 to 765 in 2019/20.
Holly Greenhow, pictured her her mother Fiona, left, was starved of oxygen for some 35 minutes when she was born at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire
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
Payouts include hundreds of millions of pounds for more than 1,200 children left with catastrophic brain damage.
The Government announced earlier this month that it was pumping almost £100million into improving NHS maternity services following rocketing compensation claims and scandals.
Major inquiries are examining care failures at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust, where almost 2,000 suspect cases are being investigated, and East Kent Hospital Trust, where up to 15 babies have died since 2011.
Between April 2009 and March 2020, NHS hospitals paid out in almost 7,000 maternity cases, according to data from NHS Resolution, which deals with damages claims in England.
The annual NHS compensation bill more than trebled in that period, from £170million in 2009/10 to £554million in 2019/20.
The figures cover 1,226 children diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to mistakes during delivery, 1,070 still births and payouts to 875 mothers left with physical and psychological injuries.
Another 691 claims were made because of the failure of midwives to act on abnormal foetal heart rates, 1,295 women were compensated for poor monitoring of their labour and 208 for issues relating to forcep or ventouse deliveries.
The remaining claims were made for a variety of problems, including failure to diagnose the potentially fatal pregnancy condition pre-eclampsia, poor administration of syntocinon, a drug used to speed up labour, blood clots and bladder injuries.
Experts say that payouts for brain damage sustained at birth often run into millions of pounds per case because children are left with severe disabilities that mean they are unable to work as adults and need round-the-clock 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.
‘That means tackling the toxic blame culture that prevents learning and sees the same mistakes repeated.’
Eddie Jones, head of medical negligence at Manchester-based JMW Solicitors, who secured the figures via a freedom of information request, said the data laid bare the appalling human and financial cost to families. The lawyer added. ‘In the cases we deal with simple steps would have prevented the most tragic of consequences. Monitoring of women and babies, ensuring guidelines are consistently followed and training and communication are areas where the system regularly falls down.
‘This is not good enough and it is wrong that the standard of care provided in maternity hospitals can fluctuate so greatly and the experiences of families vary from joyous to absolutely tragic.’
Looking after Holly will take bill to £15 million
Holly Greenhow was awarded more than £15million in NHS compensation for the injuries she suffered at birth.
The teenager’s brain was starved of oxygen for 35 minutes at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire.
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.’
Holly Greenhow was awarded more than £15million in NHS compensation for the injuries she suffered at birth after her brain was starved of oxygen for 35 minutes at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, pictured
Holly is unable to walk, cannot control her limbs and her speech is limited. However the 15-year-old from Huntingdon has become a model, working for brands such as Boden. Her mother, a trade manager for Tesco, hopes that, with professional care, Holly will be able to live independently when she grows up.
‘She can light up any room with her smile,’ she said. ‘As technology develops, I hope her future means she will not be trapped in her own body so that she can communicate freely which might encourage more people to want to connect.’
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