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Belfast Trust defends multi-million pound medical negligence claims

By Jonathan Bell

The Belfast Health Trust has defended its multi-million pound medical negligence spend.

Government figures revealed the trust, Northern Ireland biggest, spent £34million on ongoing medical negligence complaints up to the end of the last financial year.

For all of the Northern Ireland health trusts that bill - which represents a running total of costs for cases which have been ongoing for a number of years and remained live as of March 2017 - hit £94m.

There were 3,647 cases open during the year of which 1,431 were concerning the Belfast Health Trust. It reported the highest increase in case for the year with 273 new claims submitted.

For cases closed during the financial year, Northern Ireland health trusts paid out £28.5m, a decrease on previous years. Belfast was responsible for a third of that total paying out £10m.

The majority of money paid out was for damages.

The figures, the trust said, was reflective of its size and the complexity of the work it carries out and it paid out "justified" claims quickly in order to reduce costs.

In a statement, it said: "The report positively reflects that costs associated with resolution of cases have been reducing over several years at the Belfast Trust. However we are not complacent and understand we have a duty to reduce the impact and cost of negligence claims so that the healthcare we provide is safer than ever before and to minimise costs so that healthcare monies can be used for clinical care.

"When a concern is raised we have clear and transparent protocols designed to ensure a robust investigation is conducted, ensure lessons are learned by the organisation to reduce risk and provide safer care in the future.

"We settle justified claims fairly and quickly to reduce legal costs. We defend unjustified claims robustly to ensure that much needed healthcare funds are protected for frontline healthcare services.

"We retain our legal services from the Directorate of Legal Services a public body which allows us to ensure we have the necessary expertise, minimise costs and can manage claims effectively, ensuring value for money. Our processes and associated costs for managing claims are monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure best practice.

"We strive to resolve legal claims fairly and cost effectively, to identify risks and learn from harm to help provide safer care."

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