NHS costs for avoidable birth injuries now over £420m

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Persistent errors by health service staff have seen NHS maternity costs soaring, with avoidable birth injuries blamed for figures almost doubling within a year.

Birthing Injury

According to the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), £422.9 million was paid out for obstetric compensation claims and other fees last year, compared to £234.8 million in 2010/11.

The figures mainly relate to the rising lifetime expenses of supporting disabled children and their mothers. Continual staff mistakes have led to infants dying or suffering brain injuries or other disabilities, with many women also injured during labour.

Due partly to immigration, there has also been an increase in the number of UK new-borns. Over a quarter of the 700,000 infants born in 2010 were to women born outside Britain, placing further pressure on maternity wards to ensure safe and successful deliveries.

The NHSLA, which acts for hospitals in England facing claims for clinical negligence, cited 2 reasons for costs rising so dramatically.

"1 is that the cost of caring for babies and mothers who suffer birth traumas is going up, said a spokesperson. "The other reason is that legal costs have been going up all the time."

For the Patients' Association, chief executive Katherine Murphy observed that the health service must recognise that many mistakes leading to birth injuries are avoidable.

"They happen because we don't have the appropriate number of staff with the right skills and experience," Ms Murphy said.

The chief executive of patients' charity Action against Medical Accidents, Peter Walsh, said: "Part of the problem is the NHS strings out claims rather than admitting liability early on, which increases the legal costs."


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