Medical negligence payments paid out annually by NHS Scotland have risen four-fold in the past decade, new figures have revealed.
In 2016-17, £38.3 million was paid out – up from £9.4m in 2006-07. NHS Scotland has paid a total of £192.9m in medical negligence claims to patients over the five years between 2012-17.
The top three health board in terms of payments between 2012-13 and 2016-17 are NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde at £53,511,135, NHS Lothian at £32,886,208 and NHS Lanarkshire at £26,517,476.
But larger trusts will have bigger damages bills due to the volume of patients. A more accurate picture comes from examining payouts per “episode of care”.
This puts NHS Tayside top, paying out £36.40 per episode of care, followed by NHS Forth Valley at £33.83 and NHS Borders at £30.50.
Payments for maternity care failings have fallen drastically over the past ten years. In 2007-08, obstetrics accounted for 80 per cent of all payouts but in 2016-17 this had fallen to 39 per cent of payments.
However, maternity cases can take years to come to light and for the consequences to the child to become apparent.
Professor Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government’s clinical director for healthcare quality and improvement, said lessons were being learned from medical errors.
He said: “Scotland has one of the most transparent healthcare systems in the world and our NHS learns constantly from care experiences that go well and those where standards fall short.
“Particularly, in rare case of clinical negligence, boards and care professionals must learn from these situations and make improvements.
“As part of our commitment to transparency, improving standards, and learning lessons when something goes wrong, we are introducing a statutory organisational duty of candour.
“This will make it a legal requirement for all care providers, including NHS boards, to review certain types of adverse events, meet personally with those affected, and to publish an annual report to support openness and learning.”
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients’ Association, said the payout figures were the “tip of the iceberg”.
She said: “We are not talking about ‘compensation culture’ here. The process is lengthy and complex and requires highly detailed reports from independent medical experts. NHS boards don’t make it easy for patients to complain. They try to wear people down by delays and bureaucracy.”
COMPENSATION BY AREA
NHS Scotland Trust/Five-Year Total
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde - £53,511,137.03
NHS Lothian - £32,886,208.21
NHS Lanarkshire - £26,517,476.07
NHS Tayside - £18,614,931.22
NHS Grampian - £11,638,984.28
NHS Ayrshire and Arran - £11,563,128.45
NHS Fife - £11,240,197.21
NHS Forth Valley - £9,758,487.34
NHS Highland - £5,951,553.28
NHS Borders - £4,288,841.79
Scottish National Boards - £3,826,760.40
NHS Dumfries and Galloway - £1,781,290.26
NHS Western Isles - £803,723.49
NHS Shetland - £500,104.59
NHS Orkney - £66,279.58
NHS Scotland Board/Total compensation per episode
NHS Tayside - £36.39
NHS Forth Valley - £33.83
NHS Borders - £30.50
NHS Lanarkshire - £30.08
NHS Lothian - £29.19
NHS Fife - £27.44
NHS Western Isles - £24.37
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde - £21.16
NHS Shetland - £21.08
NHS Ayrshire and Arran - £20.62
NHS Grampian - £17.04
NHS Highland - £16.91
NHS Dumfries and Galloway - £8.45
NHS Orkney - £2.65