Sussex NHS Trusts pay millions in cerebral palsy claims

HOSPITALS have paid out millions of dollars in damages over the past decade after “staff negligence” resulted in cerebral palsy, or brain damage, at birth.

Between 2010 and 2021, around 30 cases of clinical negligence were brought against three Sussex NHS trusts, resulting in payouts of £105million.

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust (UH Sussex), East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT) and Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SSHT) have settled 30 claims related to brain damage or cerebral palsy – at an average of £3.5million compensation per case.

A further £15million was spilled on legal fees.

The claims relate to cases where the primary, secondary or tertiary injury was cerebral palsy or brain damage.

Cerebral palsy can be caused when the brain is temporarily deprived of oxygen during childbirth. It affects a person’s movement, speech and coordination for life.

The Argus: A temporary lack of oxygen in a baby's brain during birth can have lifelong effectsA temporary lack of oxygen in a baby’s brain during birth can have lifelong effects

Melanie Minter, director of clinical negligence at the law firm Mayo Wynne Baxter, said: “Hypoxic brain injury during childbirth, in which a baby’s brain lacks oxygen, is a leading cause of cerebral palsy.

“In some cases this cannot be prevented. However, negligent errors by healthcare professionals can result in a child suffering a brain injury.

“Flaws can include birth injuries, lack of response to wrapping the umbilical cord around a baby’s neck, delayed delivery, and lack of signs of fetal distress.

“There is no doubt that our NHS is a fantastic institution. But while a healthcare system’s primary duty is to do no harm, sometimes things go wrong and care falls short of medical standards.

“Lessons should be learned, but unfortunately the same mistakes keep being made. Clinical negligence claims play a crucial role in protecting patients from negligent treatment.”

The Argus: The NHS has paid out 30 cases in SussexThe NHS has paid out 30 cases in Sussex

The figures were released following a freedom of information request from Mayo Wynne Baxter.

They also showed that one in 12 cases of cerebral palsy nationwide in the past decade could have been avoided.

Trusts across the country have paid out £4.3bn in damages and £613m in legal fees in 1,441 cases of clinical negligence since 2010.

Argus spoke to the three Sussex trusts, all of which cannot comment on specific cases.

Emma Chambers, Director of Midwives at UH Sussex, said: “Every single one of these cases is a tragedy for the families involved and so we have an absolute duty to support them at an extremely difficult time and to fully investigate all these incidents.

“We take every opportunity to listen to our families and learn from these and other incidents, including implementing recommendations from national reviews.

The Argus: Trusts are not able to discuss specific casesTrusts are unable to discuss specific cases

“Ultimately, our focus is on developing our maternity services and improving the quality of care we provide to parents and babies.”

A spokesman for ESHT said: “We take every opportunity to learn from our mistakes so that we can improve the care of our patients and their families.

“We also use learning from others to improve the quality of our care, including implementing recommendations from national reviews like Donna Ockenden’s report for all foundations providing maternity services.”

Donna Ockenden is a Nursing Manager in the UK and a Midwifery Specialist.

A spokesman for SSHT said: “We take each of these cases very seriously and our thoughts go out to the families involved.

“While it doesn’t lessen the impact, we work incredibly hard to learn lessons when parents and babies aren’t receiving the high standard of care we’re committed to providing.” We have improved significantly over the past few years and our maternity unit has continued to receive excellent reviews for the past three years.

“We continue to implement any findings identified to protect mothers and babies, and we meet all ten maternity safety standards under the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts.”

Established in 2021, UH Sussex is a merger of Western Sussex Hospitals and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals.

It manages seven hospitals in Brighton and Sussex, including the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and the Princess Royal Hospital on Haywards Heath.

ESHT serves five hospitals in East Sussex, including Conquest in St Leonards, while SSHT manages five sites, including hospitals in Crawley and Horsham. Sussex NHS Trusts pay millions in cerebral palsy claims

Fry Electronics Team

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