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£54m paid out for Swansea health board clinical negligence cases in just three years

13 Sep 2022 3 minute read
Photo by Debora Alves from Pixabay

Richard Youle, Local Democracy Reporter

No clinician sets out to make a mistake during surgery, or delay or get a diagnosis wrong, but the effect on patients can be life-changing.

And when negligence is proven the financial implications are significant.

During the last three financial years £54,102,242 has been paid out for clinical negligence claims against Swansea Bay University Health Board, excluding defence fees.

A total of 146 clinical negligence claims were settled for the health board in those three years. The top two reasons for the claims were “diagnostic conclusions” and “invasive treatment/procedure”.

As of the beginning of April this year it had 323 outstanding clinical negligence claims.

The health board passes these types of claims to legal experts at an organisation called NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership to defend.

Health boards in Wales pay the first £25,000 of a claim, with the remainder covered by a Wales-wide fund – the Welsh Risk Pool – which was established to reimburse losses to health boards.

Swansea Bay University Health Board said it has mechanisms in place to learn from such events.

In response to questions from the Local Democracy Reporting Service, it said these measures included specific actions such as a change of practice, and a more general sharing of information among health board colleagues.

This is done at meetings and also via newsletters which highlight learning trends and provide an overview of risks and issues.

It added: “We are currently developing our reporting mechanisms to further develop how we report on and share learning across claims.”

Legal team

The health board has its own legal team which works closely with the NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership legal experts.

“Any claim where a decision to settle has been triggered, it then triggers the need to submit a learning/action plan to the Welsh Risk Pool,” it said.

“This demonstrates what actions have been taken to minimise a re-occurrence, as well as how the learning/actions have been shared more widely to inform other employees.”

Improving performance, it added, was very much a team effort across the board, but individual delivery units were responsible for implementing learning and assurance measures and practices.

Clinical negligence payouts can be in excess of £1 million. All health boards in Wales receive such claims. 

According to Welsh Government data, £84.8 million was paid out in 2020-21 and £148.4 million the year before for the country’s seven health boards, the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust and Public Health Wales.

Swansea Bay University Health Board’s share of the 2020-21 payouts was £35,678,000, the largest of any health board.

A freedom of information (FOI) request by the Welsh Conservatives revealed that between 2016-17 and 2019-20 a total of £265,503,877 was paid out across the Welsh health boards following 3,081 separate medical negligence claims.

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