NHS Fife’s £17m compensation bill

Claims could cost millions
Claims could cost millions

Fife’s struggling NHS is being hit with a flood of negligence claims which could see it pay out damages of nearly £17 million.

According to latest figures, the region is facing 77 claims of medical negligence, including one resulting in birth defect.

A further 31 cases of liability were lodged by NHS staff, seven of whom are claiming compensation after alleged assaults by patients.

Fife’s rise in claims mirrors other boards across the country - a trend critics suspect is linked with cutbacks and staff shortages in hospitals.

However, a source with senior experience in NHS Fife, believed “ambulance-chasing lawyers” were contributing to the issue.

“The amount of cases is rising which is probably a reflection of our society which is becoming more litigation conscious,” he said.

“NHS staff by and large are pretty conscientious, hardworking people and they are only human - things can and do go wrong - but given the sheer numbers of procedures carried out it’s relatively rare.

“A lot of the cases which start off might eventually prove unfounded, it doesn’t always mean the NHS is liable.”

The list of active cases, released after a Freedom of Information request, revealed six writs involved injury or damage caused during surgical procedure, and 10 alleged a failure to obtain informed consent from patients.

A further 10 involved a failure to diagnose or delay in diagnosis, seven cases referred to failure/delay in treatment, four cases of medication errors and four failures to x-ray.

There were also two cases of surgical material being left in a patient’s body.

The vast majority of claimants, 53 of 77, were women and five cases specifically dealt with maternity issues - three of failure to respond timely to abnormal fetal heart rate, two with problems with forceps delivery and one case resulting in birth defect.

In response, MSP Alex Rowley, who has been campaigning for a review of health and social services in Fife, said: “I’m really concerned yet I’m also not surprised given the number of cases I have taken up on behalf of people where they’ve had a poor experience with NHS Fife.

“I’m due to meet with the Health Secretary at the beginning of February and I’m going to be raising my concerns with her

“NHS staff are run off their feet and at the Vic there are times where the hospital has been run at capacity levels that are unacceptable.

“The majority of staff are working way beyond what is reasonable, working under massive pressure and they need to be supported.”

Earlier this week the health secretary announced a £7m fund over three years to help Fife bed-blocking crisis.

Mr Rowley said, “Given these ‘massive’ figures, can NHS Fife afford a £17m bill? No, clearly it can’t.

“But more importantly people in Fife should have confidence to know they will be dealt with properly and I don’t know if they do.”