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NHS settles two multi-million pound claims per week

The NHS’s head of complaints has told MPs that it is settling around two multi-million pound payouts every week for failings in maternity care.

Helen Vernon, chief executive of NHS Resolution, said the largest single payout for clinical negligence this year was approximately £37 million. Ms Vernon was giving evidence to the all-party Commons health and social care committee on the safety of maternity services in England when she confirmed the figure.

She went on to add that around half of all cases dealt with by NHS Resolution do not result in a compensation payment which means relevant information to learn from mistakes could be being missed.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the committee chairman, said: “When I was health secretary, I used to have to settle, through you, about two multi million pound damages claims every week for families that were born with severely disabled children.” While questioning Ms Vernon, he said he was “shocked” that families had to prove that clinical negligence had taken place to secure compensation which could mean “battle lines are drawn” early on in the process, making it harder to get an “open, transparent resolution”. Ms Vernon suggested that a framework set up by NHS Resolution, which aims to settle cases outside court and compensate families “in real-time”, could be an “alternative approach.

A bereaved father affected by the Morecambe Bay scandal, James Titcombe, told the committee that there are “very clear signs” that mistakes in hospital maternity care are being repeated. He said that families were acting as the “canary in the mine” to raise the alarm around shortcomings in maternity care.