Data reveals that Portsmouth hospital trust pays out more than £82m in damages due to failings leading to cerebral palsy

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A PORTSMOUTH hospital trust has paid out more than £82 million in damages due to failings leading to cerebral palsy over the past decade, new figures have shown.

A freedom of information request has shown that between the financial years 2010/11 and 2020/21, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust settled 25 clinical negligence claims related to the lifelong condition, paying out more than £82 million in damages.

This equates to an average of £3.3 million per case, as well as £9 million in legal fees.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for the trust confirmed that any birth where an unexpected complication occurs is fully investigated.

Melaine Minter. Melaine Minter.
Melaine Minter.

The statement continued: ‘In cases of term babies, over the last few years, these investigations have been undertaken externally by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch.

‘For any case where the investigation does not meet the threshold for HSIB investigation, it is now embedded practice that we invite an external member to our panel reviews to ensure an independent view of the care.’

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Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that affects movement and coordination.

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Those living with the condition may face movement, walking and speech difficulties, learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, hearing or vision loss, epilepsy, spinal deformities and joint problems – requiring ongoing physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and medication.

Law firm Mayo Wynne Baxter says it wishes to highlight the importance of clinical negligence claims in funding vital aftercare and safeguarding patients.

Melanie Minter, partner and head of clinical negligence at the firm, said: ‘Hypoxic brain injury during childbirth, which is where a baby’s brain gets starved of oxygen, is one of the main causes of cerebral palsy.

‘In some cases, this cannot be prevented. However, negligent mistakes by healthcare professionals can lead to a child sustaining a brain injury.

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‘Errors can include birth injuries, failing to respond to the umbilical cord being wrapped around a baby’s neck, delayed delivery, and missing signs of foetal distress, such as meconium.’

According to disability charity Scope, approximately 1,800 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year, meaning 1 in 12 of the estimated 18,000 new cases over the past 10 years were caused by negligent mistakes.

Melanie added: ‘There is no doubting our NHS is a fantastic institution.

‘But while the first duty of a healthcare system is to do no harm, sometimes things do go wrong and care falls below medical standards.

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‘Lessons should be learned but unfortunately time and time again, the same mistakes are made.

‘Clinical negligence claims play a critical role in safeguarding patients against negligent treatment.

‘In all cases, clients are predominantly seeking to establish the truth, an apology and to prevent healthcare professionals from making the same mistakes in the future.

‘One of the key reasons parents decide to make a cerebral palsy claim is to ensure there are sufficient funds to support their child’s ongoing health and care costs.

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‘All cerebral palsy settlements are different and it is almost impossible to put an accurate figure on the average pay-out.’

The research also showed that nationally, NHS failings in relation to cerebral palsy have cost tax payers an average of £493 million a year since 2010.

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