NHS pays out ‘two multi-million pound settlements a week’ for maternity failings

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

This year, the largest single sum for clinical negligence was settled – around £37million – Helen Vernon, chief executive of NHS Resolution, said.

Ms Vernon was giving evidence to the 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 50 per cent of cases dealt with by NHS Resolution do not result in a compensation payment, meaning there could be relevant information to learn from mistakes that is missed.

Questioning Ms Vernon, committee chair and former-health secretary, Jeremy Hunt said: “When I was health secretary, I used to have to settle, through you, about two multi-million damages claims every week for families that were born with severely disabled children that had to be looked after for the rest of their lives.”

He added he was “shocked” that families had to prove clinical negligence had taken place to secure compensation.

This requirement could mean “battle lines are drawn” early on in the process, making it harder to get an “open, transparent resolution”, he said.

Ms Vernon confirmed the figure and added a family must prove “that there has been some failure in the care, and that that failure has resulted in the outcome that sadly occurred for them”.

Mr Hunt said it takes “on average” around five years for disputes of medical failings to be resolved, and asked Ms Vernon what changes to the law could speed up the process.

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