Belfast Telegraph

Trusts pay out £50m in claims and legal fees

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Health trusts have spent more than £50m on negligence cases in Northern Ireland, new figures have revealed.

Most of the money, £37.2m, was spent on compensation, but a significant chunk of the cash, £13.2m, went on legal fees.

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust paid out the largest amount in damages and legal costs - a figure of £13.7m which accounted for a quarter of all monies spent.

Kieran McCarthy, a GP who sits on the Stormont health committee, said: "That is absolutely unbelievable. It is just horrendous."

The figures, which were published by the Statistics and Research Agency, relate to 3,315 cases which were open during the 2012/13 financial year.

During the period, the Belfast Trust which operates the Royal Victoria, Mater and City Hospitals paid out a total of £9.6m on damages. The Western Health and Social Care Trust, which takes in Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Londonderry and the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, stumped up £9.3m for compensation claims.

Strangford MLA Dr McCarthy said he believed the money could be better spent.

He added: "That is money that is being paid out for clinical negligence. It could be used to keep the Downe Hospital; Bangor minor injuries unit and many other facilities open.

"This goes on year after year and there doesn't seem to be any improvement.

"It is something that the minister and the senior officials in the Department of Health are going to have to seriously look at. Why is this happening?"

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