New childbirth injury compensation scheme announced
The health secretary has announced plans for a new scheme to allow parents of children injured during birth to access financial support more easily.
The Rapid Resolution and Redress scheme, currently out for consultation, would be a voluntary route for parents to gain speedier resolution and move the NHS, according to Jeremy Hunt, towards a culture of learning from mistakes made in the NHS far too often.
If parents aren’t satisfied with the results, they will still be able pursue their legal right to medical negligence compensation, he insists.
Establishing a “learning culture” within the NHS around childbirth injuries, should allow common errors to be quickly identified and improvements implemented.
England currently has one of the highest birth mortality rates in Europe, with seven in every 1000 babies either stillborn or dying soon after birth. It’s estimated that 500 new-borns suffer avoidable injury each year as a result of negligence during birth.
A move within the health service towards investigating cases of medical negligence earlier could also improve efficiency. As it stands patients are often forced to issue legal proceedings to get answers and compensation – yet the NHS Litigation Authority will eventually end up admitting liability in three quarters of these cases.
The delay between the start of legal proceedings and the NHS’ lawyers admitting liability often results in higher costs for the health service.
“Make sure we get this right”
“The concept of this scheme is one which many will welcome and which could make life easier for families affected by mistakes in maternity care.
It would help families enormously if incidents were rigourously investigated at an early stage so that they can establish the truth behind an error and so that the clinicians can implement change. Also, the NHS’ overall costs will be reduced if more of these cases were investigated at an earlier stage and resolved quickly.
We do have to be cautious, though, that the cost-saving imperative doesn’t trump access to justice – be that understanding what went wrong or meeting a need for funds to cover lifelong care costs created by their child’s injury.
It was heartening to hear Jeremy Hunt say on the Today programme that he wants to “make sure we get this right” for families – this surely has to be the focus of any such scheme.
In complex cases, particularly those involving cerebral palsy specialist advice will still be crucial in order to make sure the child receives a settlement that will meet their needs such as the cost of future care.”