Medical negligence: At least 1,116 claims settled by London NHS trusts last year

“It’s difficult not to think that when Lucas needed help the most he was badly let down.”

At least 1,116 claims were settled in the last year by London NHS trusts for medical negligence, data has revealed.

Hospital and healthcare trusts in the capital awarded more than £575m in compensation payments to patients who they agreed had suffered clinical failings.

It comes as England’s NHS faces a record bill for future medical negligence claims, with the amount needed to settle these rising by 52% to £128.2bn, similar to its entire annual budget.

Its dispute-handling body paid out £2.4bn in damages and legal costs for clinical negligence claims in 2021/22, a 9% rise on the year before, with almost 40% related to maternity claims.

What happened in London?

At least 1,116 claims were settled in the capital between 2021-22, for at least £575,583,132 - but they were paid out by NHS Resolution, a national insurance-type body, rather than the trusts.

Barts Health NHS Trust settled the most claims, with 170, quickly followed by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust​, with 126 and 111 claims settled respectively.

Lucas Whitehouse was starved of oxygen at birth. Photo: Supplied

While all of the other trusts settled less than 100 claims.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust topped the table for damages payouts, at £76,774,914, with Barts Health NHS Trust the second most at £73,349,548.

Damages payments for claims at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, and London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust all came to more than £53,000,000.

Starved of oxygen

Eight-year-old Lucas Whitehouse has cerebral palsy and global development delay after mistakes during his birth meant his brain was starved of oxygen.

He uses a wheelchair and is set to need two carers around the clock for the rest of his life.

After his birth in 2014, parents Rebecca and Dan, from Enfield, north London, instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his care at the North Middlesex University Hospital.

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The trust soon admitted liability and apologised and a root cause analysis investigation report by the trust found 38 issues and factors with the family’s care.

Dad Dan, 41, said Lucas was a breech baby, meaning his body was born before his head.

He said: “When his body was delivered, they left it too long before they delivered his head.

Lucas is now eight-years-old and a ‘fighter’. Photo: Supplied

“The frustrating thing is that he was a healthy child until a minute before they delivered him.”

Lucas’s needs could only be established when he was older so a financial settlement was finalised just last year - with money in a trust for all spending to be approved for his care.

The family are buying a car with a wheelchair ramp and plan to build a fully accessible house to allow Lucas to live as independently as possible.

‘We feel so blessed that he’s our son’

Mum Rebecca, 42, said: “Finding out Lucas’s injuries could have been avoided if the correct guidelines had been followed and staff were properly trained has been the hardest to accept.

“It’s difficult not to think that when Lucas needed help the most he was badly let down.”

But she added: “Despite everything he’s been through, we’re so proud of Lucas. He’s an absolute fighter and we feel so blessed that he’s our son.

“Each day he amazes us with the courage and determination he shows to not be defined by his condition. His laughter would make anyone smile.”

Lucas’ mum and dad want him to have ‘the best life possible’. Photo: Supplied

And Rebecca continued: “All we want is for him to have the best life possible.

“Knowing that the support and care Lucas needs is guaranteed for the rest of his life is a huge relief.”

And Dan said that in the main, the NHS did “a good job” and that when their daughter Lily was born at another hospital two years later, the staff were very good with them.

“They went out of their way to make sure we were well looked after,” he said.

What is NHS Resolution?

Individual hospital trusts do not generally pay their own medical negligence bills.

Instead, they pay a fee to be part of risk-pooling schemes run by its dispute-handling body NHS Resolution, which then settles claims on their behalf. Providers with more and higher-value claims have to pay higher fees.

NHS Resolution paid out £2.4bn in damages and legal costs for clinical negligence claims across England in 2021/22, a 9% rise from the year before.

Lucas Whitehouse will need lifelong around the clock care. Photo: Supplied

NHS Resolution said the rise in payouts was mainly down to an increase in damages and legal costs from high-value claims - those worth more than £3.5m.

The sum needed to meet the future cost of damages payments has risen by 52% in a year to an astonishing £128.2 billion, a figure similar to the NHS’ entire annual budget.

This figure will be due over the decades ahead and includes incidents where claims have yet to be settled, and cases where the NHS agreed to pay for care for the rest of a claimant’s life.

What has been said?

NHS Resolution chief executive Helen Vernon said: “We will be accelerating our work with others working in healthcare safety to improve outcomes for patients, with a particular focus on maternity.”

Lisa Jordan, head of medical negligence at one of the UK’s largest law firms, Irwin Mitchell, said every year they represented many patients whose lives had been impacted by unnecessary medical mistakes.

She said: “All of these patients would rather the negligence had never happened.

“The settlements are not lottery wins, they pay for vital rehabilitation and support to help them get their lives back on track.

“In the case of birth injuries, it pays for a lifetime of specialist care for people left severely disabled.

“Each case is a chance to learn lessons to prevent the same things happening time and again.”