Belfast Telegraph

Outrage over medical negligence case delays

By Adrian Rutherford

A medical negligence case has still not been settled — 27 years after it began, it has been revealed.

Another 55 claims are still going on after more than 15 years, leading to angry calls for a review of how cases are handled.

The shocking details were revealed in an Assembly question from Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd, who said the delays must be urgently curtailed.

“I am aware of one family that has been waiting 16 years for their medical negligence case to be heard,” he said.

“They are seeking compensation for their son who has been left severely disabled after medical treatment went wrong.

“The case is continually cancelled just before it reaches court leaving the family in limbo.

“Meanwhile the lawyers are paid and in one case for this last 27 years legal fees have been continually paid out.”

Mr O’Dowd said the amount paid out in legal fees for this case is not available, adding he would pursue “this unacceptable position” further. Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Northern Ireland’s Health Trusts spent almost £20 million on medical negligence claims in a single year.

Statistics released by the Department of Health reveal some 541 claims were made against the five local health trusts during the 2008/09 financial year — resulting in settlements totalling £14.6m.

In addition, the legal costs amounted to more than £5m.

The figures were obtained in a separate written Assembly question by DUP MLA Alex Easton, who described the situation as “unacceptable”.

The North Down representative has demanded action from Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to reduce the outlay.

“This money would have been better spent on frontline services, like ambulances and staff,” he said.

“I call on the minister to review these costs and work to ensure, with medical staff, that these costs are limited.”

Mr McGimpsey said the figures represented around 0.6% of all the Trusts’ total operating costs in that year.

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