May 4, 2022 9.20 am This story is over 17 months old

Lincolnshire hospital negligence payouts for cerebral palsy cost £57m in 10 years

An average of £4 million per negligence case

More than £57 million has been paid out in damages due to negligence leading to cerebral palsy at Lincolnshire NHS hospitals, over the last decade.

The information was obtained via a Freedom of Information request by law firm Lime Solicitors, submitted to NHS Resolution. It showed that between the financial years of 2010/11 and 2020/21, United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (ULHT) has settled 14 clinical negligence claims related to the lifelong condition.

These settlements add up to £57.3 million in damages for cerebral palsy negligence from the trust, an average of £4 million a case, as well as £9 million in legal fees.

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition with no available cure. It affects movement and co-ordination and people living with it may face difficulties with their speech, walking and cognitive skills.

Sufferers require ongoing physio, speech and occupational therapy as well as medication, and there are risks of hearing or vision loss, epilepsy and spinal deformities.

Nationally, almost 1 in 12 cerebral palsy cases could have been avoided over the past decade, the solicitors say, with trusts across the country paying out £4.3 billion in damages and £613 million in legal fees across 1,441 clinical negligence cases.

Last year saw 268 new claims made in England, which is the highest in at least a decade, and The Lincolnite took the figures to United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust for an explanation.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust Medical Director Colin Farquharson said: “NHS Resolution settles litigation claims on behalf of all NHS Trusts, and any funds paid out in litigation cases are not paid by ULHT but are covered by the premium paid each year to NHS Resolution.

“While we are not able to comment on the specific detail of the claims referred to during the 10 year period relating to this Freedom of Information request, we acknowledge that any failure to provide care to the high standards we expect can impact upon our patients and their loved ones.

“This is why we take every opportunity to listen to those experiencing our care and to learn from our mistakes, acting openly and honestly when those standards are not met.

“We also use the learning of others to improve the quality of our care, including implementing recommendations made from national reviews such as the report by Donna Ockenden for all Trusts providing maternity services.

“We remain committed to continual improvement in the care and support offered to everyone in our care.”

According to disability charity Scope, there are approximately 1,800 children diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year.

Robert Rose, head of clinical negligence at Lime Solicitors, said: “One of the main causes of cerebral palsy is hypoxic brain injury during childbirth, which is where a baby’s brain gets starved of oxygen. Sometimes, this cannot be prevented or it is impossible to work out what caused the child’s injuries.

“However, negligent mistakes by healthcare professionals can lead to a child sustaining a hypoxic brain injury. Errors can include delayed delivery, birth injuries, failing to respond to the umbilical cord being wrapped around a baby’s neck, and missing signs of foetal distress, such as meconium.

“Our NHS is fantastic. While the first duty of a healthcare system is to do no harm, sometimes things do go wrong and care falls below medical standards. Clinical negligence claims play a critical role in safeguarding patients against negligent treatment.

“Negligent injuries resulting in cerebral palsy should not take place and we know the lessons that should have been learned, but unfortunately time and time again, the same mistakes are made.

“Regrettably, I have seen many of these mistakes before and we will look to obtain the appropriate expert evidence to guide the family through the complex legal process as arrangements are put in place to assist their child.”