Serious NHS Scotland compensation payouts quadruple in a year, accounts show

Compensation pay-outs for failures in care in Scotland’s NHS have quadrupled in a year and are at their highest since the 2014 independence referendum in news likely to heap pressure on Humza Yousaf.

The Scottish Government’s most recent publication of their consolidated accounts states a total of £67.77m was paid out in the most serious cases of clinical negligence or breaches of the duty of care within the NHS, with the number of cases jumping by 10 to 35 overall.

The total payout is more than the four years prior combined, and the highest figure since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister in 2014.

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The numbers will increase pressure on the health secretary, Humza Yousaf, who is facing calls to resign from both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives over the crisis facing Scotland’s health service following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Opposition parties claim the current crisis, which has seen accident and emergency waiting times plunge to record lows, waiting lists for treatments grow, and the threat of strikes from nurses and doctors, has not been adequately responded to by Mr Yousaf.

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the General Practitioners Committee within BMA Scotland, said the pressures on GPs was resulting in patients struggling to get appointments and practices no longer being able to sustain a service. He told the BBC’s The Sunday show that his “real fear” was GP services were now at a “tipping point”.

He said: “My real fear is that we are at a tipping point and what we’re going to see is areas of Scotland that are under-doctored, and that is most likely to happen in areas of higher deprivation, so the care of these patients is going to suffer.”

Clinical compensation payouts for claims worth more than £300,000 skyrocketed last year to almost £68m. No reason was provided as to why the figure is so high or whether the cases are due to negligence or influenced by factors such as understaffing or a lack of resource.

Humza Yousaf, the health secretary, is facing pressure over the performance of the health service.

In the financial year 2021/22, the Scottish Government paid out £67.77m as part of the most serious claims, the highest figure in available consolidated accounts which date back to 2014/15 and the second highest since 2015/16 when £36.96m was paid out.

This included £22.6m in compensation paid out by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, who last breached double figures in 2015/16 when it paid out £10.9m. NHS Lothian also paid out £19.7m last year, its first double figure amount since 2015/16 when it paid out £10.3m.

Jackie Baillie, health spokesperson for Scottish Labour, said the figures were “eye-watering”. She said: “Our NHS is in full-blown crisis, with Scotland's do-nothing Health Secretary nowhere to be seen.

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“This is an eye-watering jump in the number of compensation claims which will raise eyebrows across the county. We cannot have our already cash-strapped NHS put at further financial risk. "

The Scottish Government claimed that the figures fluctuate due to the length of time claims take to be settled, but provided no explanation for the rapid and significant increase in payouts.

A spokesperson 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 falls short.

“Particularly in rare cases of clinical negligence, Health Boards and care professionals must learn from these situations and make improvements. These cases can take a number of years to settle so there will be fluctuations in compensation payments from year to year.”

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