Concerns have been raised that an increase in Northern Ireland medical negligence claims will exhaust addition funding allocated to the health service.
The concerns were raised by Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson after figures from the Department of Health showed that 752 new medical negligence claims had been made against the health service in Northern Ireland in the twelve months to April 2015.
Ms Dobson expressed fears that £47.6 million of addition healthcare funding allocated to the province will be used to settle claims against the health service after the figures also revealed that, during the same period, £41.3 million was paid out in compensation and legal fees to settle Northern Ireland medical negligence claims.
The Ulster Unionist spokesperson for health and agriculture told reporters “Given the worryingly high £41.3 million cost of medical negligence cases last year, and the potential for higher costs this year, I am concerned that this new funding had already been swallowed up by the health service before it was even announced.”
The 3,061 Northern Ireland medical negligence claims that were processed during 2014/15 represent an 11.3 percent increase from five years ago. The majority of the claims relate to negligent treatment, the failure to make a correct diagnosis, the misinterpretation of test results or the failure to act on test results. Other injuries caused by medical negligence in Northern Ireland included child birth injuries and surgical errors.
Peter Walsh – the chief executive of Action against Medical Accidents – commented that the National Health Service should give a higher priority to avoiding patient safety lapses and be prepared to admit that a mistake has been made much sooner after a claim has been made to save legal costs. Northern Ireland medical negligence claims currently take two and a half years to resolve on average.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The department is committed to providing high quality, safe and effective health and social care services to all patients and clients across Northern Ireland. The treatment and care provided to the overwhelming majority of people is of the highest quality. On occasions, things do go wrong and when they do, it is right that people are compensated appropriately.”