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£25m compensation paid out by Sussex Hospitals in one year
Millions of pounds are being paid out by the NHS in compensation for medical blunders at hospitals in Sussex.
Almost £25 million was spent over a one year period following claims made against the county's three main hospital trusts.
This is a rise on the £21.1m the year before, although health bosses and legal forms say the increase in payouts does not mean there has been an explosion in compensation claims.
They say the cost of providing care for people left with brain damage or who have suffered other injuries as a result of mistakes is going up.
Some cases can also take years to go through the legal process and a final settlement agreed. All compensation claims are dealt with by the NHS Litigation Authority.
The amount paid by the authority following claims against Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust reached £10.4m between April 2012 and the end of March.
This includes damages paid to claimants, patients, staff and members of the public and legal costs.
Payouts connected to Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust reached £7.7m and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust was £6.4m.
Robert Bell, a specialist in clinical negligence at Mayo Wynne Baxter in Brighton, said: “The number of cases we have seen have remained pretty steady in recent years.
“The reason why payments have gone up is more about the actual cost of care increasing.
“If a personal needs specialist 24-hour care then that could cost up to £200,000 a year. If a person has a life expectancy of 20 years, then it soon adds up.”
Mr Bell said it was very rare for people to take legal action purely because of money.
He said: “Around 90% of the people who come to us say they are doing it to register their concern with the hospital trust and to avoid the same thing happening to another family.
“However it is also important for those families who may be struggling financially to get access to the care a person may need.
“Going through the legal process is not a decision that is taken lightly at all.”
In November 2012 The Argus reported how a patient known a Mrs D was paid £8,000 in compensation after staff at Western Sussex Hospitals missed an opportunity to treat a serious eye condition.
The incident left the patient with “probably permanent and irreversible” eye damage.
A spokesman for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We take patient safety extremely seriously at all times and we fully investigate any incident that gives rise to a complaint or legal claim to ensure it does not happen again.
“Payments that are made by the NHS Litigation Authority are not a reflection of the level of safety or quality of services within individual trusts.
“Every claim is treated on an individual basis and some can take years to be completed so any year-on-year increase in the amount of payments does not always mean a rise in the number of claims.”
Western Sussex Hospitals director of nursing and patient safety, Cathy Stone, said: “Whenever we receive complaints we go to great lengths to find out whether we could have given a better service.
“On the rare occasions that something does go wrong, of course, it is only right that people are compensated properly, and promptly.
“We pride ourselves in the speed with which we reach a settlement.
“We believe that, when it is clear there was fault, we should not make people wait any longer than necessary to receive appropriate compensation.”
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