The NHS has spent almost £50 million in the past five years on compensation for blunders at hospitals in Sussex.

The cash could have bought 800 intensive care ventilators, 2,050 incubators for premature babies or 50 MRI scanners.

The figure makes up almost half the £100 million needed to fund hospital services across the region that are set to be cut.

Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal £31 million was paid out to victims of clinical negligence between 2001 and 2006.

Settlements resulted from mistakes such as failure to diagnose fractures, problems with childbirth and injuries caused by injections.

A further £2.6 million was paid out to employees and visitors who had accidents at NHS sites.

Lawyers' fees account for the remaining £14 million.

Monica Corrina-Kavakli, 38, who is fighting for the future of Eastbourne District General Hospital with other members of Save the DGH, said: "It's outrageous because it's a ridiculous amount of money.

"It just proves that if this money hadn't been wasted, we wouldn't be at risk of losing the service we all require.

"The public needs to know about this because it's our money they're throwing away.

"Lives are possibly being lost already because of this and are certainly going to be lost in the future."

Claims for medical negligence account for about one per cent of the NHS annual budget - and the bill is rising. The NHS paid out £14.3 million in 2005-06, more than in any of the previous four years.

The Litigation Authority has paid out £14.8 million on behalf of East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust.

Campaigners say the money could have gone towards maintaining services at Eastbourne District General Hospital and Conquest Hospital in St Leonards, which could lose maternity or accident and emergency facilities in the cuts.

Janice Kent, of the local patient and public involvement forum, said: "I'm surprised by this figure because it is high.

It's a lot of money that is being paid out."

The Litigation Authority paid out £10.35 million on behalf of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, £9.26 million for Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust, £7.4 million for Worthing and Southlands Hospitals Trust, £5.26 million for Royal West Sussex Trust and £317,635 for South Downs Health Trust.

Judith Clabby, director of corporate services at East Sussex Hospitals Trust, said the figures did not tell the whole story. She said: "You cannot compare hospitals because it depends on the size, number of beds, operations provided and the amount of patients seen.

"If a hospital delivers a baby, the chances are there won't be a claim but if it delivers 1,000 babies, there is a greater chance of a claim."

Last week, The Argus reported how Alison Jones, 46, of Seaford, secured millions of pounds in compensation after a blunder by staff while she was giving birth under the care of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust.

Staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital played down her fears a scar on her uterus could rupture and refused to deliver by Caesarean but the scar burst after they induced labour and her son Ellis received serious brain injuries.