Maternity wards responsible for half of medical errors

Nearly £1bn was paid in compensation to families last year for serious errors and malpractice, which makes up nearly half the £2.4bn the NHS paid out in total on compensation payments and legal bills.

The maternity bill is nearly double the amount paid out to doctors working in maternity wards, said Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the House of Commons health committee.

The true extent of medical error could be far higher even than the figures suggest. There is still a culture of cover-up, with doctors and nurses hiding behind lawyers and refusing to accept blame.

“Doctors, nurses and midwives worry they could lose their licence if they are found to have made a mistake. Hospital managers worry about the reputation of their organisation,” he said.

Mr Hunt, the UK’s former health secretary, has tried to get more clarity and accountability from the NHS when mistakes happen, but admits the initiative has failed. Hospitals are still refusing to produce data about avoidable deaths, although he estimates around 8000 people die every year in a UK hospital from medical error.

Fewer than a quarter of the UK’s hospital trusts have provided data that “is meaningful”, he said.

(Source: Daily Telegraph, September 18, 2020)