The Western Trust paid out over £2.5m in compensation for negligence cases in the last financial year, the Derry News can reveal.
A new report published by the department of health shows the amount paid in damages by the Western Trust on clinical and social care negligence cases has doubled since 2016/17.
In one such case a six-year-old boy suffered life-changing injuries during birth.
At the beginning of this year he was awarded nearly £5m in damages from an NHS trust, understood to be comprised of one lump sum followed by periodical payments over the years - which explains why this year’s total isn't higher.
The child from Co. Derry, who cannot be identified, developed severe cerebral palsy after he was starved of oxygen to the brain during his birth at Altnagelvin Hospital in 2012.
The boy’s family sued the Western Health and Social Care Trust for alleged medical negligence and the Trust accepted liability just days before the action was due to appear for trial at Belfast High Court.
It is thought to be one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Northern Ireland.
Following the settlement, solicitor for the family, Harry McAleese, said the family were “delighted and relieved” with the outcome of long-running case and the money would enable them to provide the “necessary support and comfort” for their child.
At the time the Western Health Trust said it deeply regretted that the boy’s care “fell below acceptable standards".
When asked by the Derry News to comment further on the case and to explain why the entirety of this £5m settlement doesn't appear in the latest figures, a spokesperson stated: "The Trust does not comment on individual cases for confidentiality/privacy reasons."
Clinical/social care negligence is defined as “a breach of duty of care by members of the health and social care professions employed by HSC organisations or by others consequent on decisions or judgments made by members of those professions acting in the course of their employment, and which are admitted as negligent by the employer or determined as such through the legal process.”
Aside from the Belfast Trust which paid out over £11m in damages in 2018/19, the Western Trust spent more on compensation than any other Trust with a figure of £2,680,019. An additional £448,364 was paid in defence costs bringing the total to over £3m.
In the Western Trust area, 139 incidents took place in the course of treatment, 90 in Diagnosis & Tests and 86 in Pregnancy & Childbirth.
At the end of March this year, 438 Western Trust cases remained open while 28 cases were settled and 60 were closed.
Up until March 31, 2019, the Western Trust has paid £5,169.994 in damages on cases open at any stage during 2018/19. Over £800,000 was also spent on defence costs.
That is the lowest figure of the five NI Trusts with damages payments ranging from £14m at the Southern Trust to over £36.5m at the Belfast Trust for cases open during the same year.
Open cases are those which have been mounted against Trusts in previous years which have either been settled and payments are still being made or court cases are ongoing with associated legal costs.
For example, if a case was opened in 2015 and had not been closed by 1st April 2018, payments will be included on this case from the date it opened until 31st March 2019 or closed date.
In response, a spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “It should be noted that the figures provided within the DoH report, detail the number of clinical/social care negligence cases which were open at any stage during the period 01 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.
“The figure of 526 includes claims that remained open as at 31 March 2019, plus any that had been settled or closed during 2018/19. Once a case is opened it will be included for each year that it remains open or settled. The year in which a case is closed, is the last year it will be included.
“The figures quoted in sections 2 and 3 of the DoH report include all payments made up to 31 March 2019 cumulatively since the cases began and are not solely related to payments made during the period 01 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.
“For the Western Trust this equates to damages of £5,169,944 and defence costs of £819,061 for those 526 cases.
“The number of new clinical/social care negligence cases opened in the Western Trust in 2018/19 (88) was the lowest figure of any of the Health and Social Care Trusts excluding Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.”
The Spokesperson continued: “The Trust takes the health and safety of our patients, clients and staff very seriously, yet this is set against the context where no health and social care system can ever guarantee to be risk or error free.
“The sharing of learning from claims is embedded within our governance structures and processes, to help increase quality and safety and to provide oversight and assurance at every level. This is supported by a governance framework in place to maintain and further strengthen the safety of services for patients, clients, staff and the general public.
“All Clinical/Social Care Negligence claims are taken very seriously by the Trust and the public should feel reassured that the Trust has systems in place to identify and share learning to help prevent future reoccurrence and to minimise the impact of such incidents.”
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