Wales politics

£90m NHS Wales negligence bill alarming, Welsh Conservatives say

Patient and nurse Image copyright Getty Images

Taxpayers are being hit by rising bills for NHS clinical negligence claims, the Welsh Conservatives have claimed.

The party says it is "alarming and shocking" that total payouts by the seven Welsh boards have risen by 43% in four years to over £90m in 2017-18.

Tory health spokeswoman Angela Burns has called for an inquiry, and action to tackle possible causes of errors.

The Welsh Government said Ministry of Justice rule changes had "significantly increased" the cost of settlements.

Official figures from the health boards show that payouts rose from just over £64m for 643 claims in 2013-14 to £91.4m for 792 payments in 2017-18.

The sum equates to around 1.5% of the total NHS Wales budget of £6bn.

Over the four-year period, the Cardiff and Vale board saw the biggest increase in the total paid out, more than tripling from £6.2m to £22.2m.

Image caption Angela Burns said the millions paid out could have been spent on patient care

The Betsi Cadwaladr board in north Wales saw the biggest rise in the number of claims - nearly doubling from 98 to 193.

"These enormous pay-outs are a clear reflection of the immense pressures of an overstretched NHS workforce, who are under-resourced and understaffed," Ms Burns said.

"It is incredibly frustrating that not even a penny of these staggering sums ever gets spent on improving patient care.

"Risk is of course inherent in medical practice, but there are measures that can be taken to mitigate against aggravating that risk.

"This should include better cleaning practices to minimise surgical infections; improved workforce planning to ease individual pressures; and continued training opportunities.

"The Welsh Labour Government should instigate an urgent inquiry into its medical practices to ascertain why we're seeing such a rise in claims against the health service, and put measures in place to prevent harm from arising in the first place."

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "As the Welsh Conservatives are aware, the unprecedented increase in the cost of negligence claim settlements in 2017-18 is mainly down to the UK Government's change to the Personal Injury Discount Rate for legal claims.

"This decision has significantly increased the costs of lump sum settlements for all personal injury claims. In England, the pay-outs relating to clinical claims have risen from £1.71bn to £2.23bn in the same period.

"It's important to remember that every year hundreds of thousands of people receive high-quality, safe healthcare in Wales and clinical negligence pay-outs represent a small number of people being treated on the NHS.

"The NHS workforce and patients are encouraged to report all incidents so they can be investigated openly and lessons learnt."

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