Maternity failings cost Essex NHS Trust £103m in the past 10 years

Maternity failings cost Essex NHS Trust £103m in the past 10 years

Essex NHS trust pays out £103m over maternity failings

BBC News

An NHS trust paid £103m in compensation in the past 10 years following failings in its maternity department.

A Freedom of Information request revealed the pay-outs made by the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust.

The Trust also had the highest number of successful clinical negligence claims of any NHS provider, according to recent data.

A Trust spokesman said the maternity payments related to cases which could have happened over a 20-year period.

The obstetric figures, obtained by Channel 4 News, revealed pay-outs and costs totalling £103,097,198 between 2010-11 and 2020-21.

Clinical negligence claims during this period related to 36 mother or baby deaths, 31 babies with brain damage, 24 with cerebral palsy and 27 stillbirths.

Overall there were almost 300 obstetric claims against the Trust and its three predecessor organisations over the 10-year period.

Last year the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said there were still concerns about staffing levels within the Trust's maternity units at Basildon, Southend and Broomfield hospitals.

The Trust also had the highest number of successful clinical negligence claims of any NHS provider, according to recent data covering all of its departments.

According to data published in December by NHS Resolution, which handles negligence cases on behalf of the health service, the Trust recorded 179 successful claims against it in 2020-21 relating to all its departments.

These resulted in damages valued at £107.7m, the highest in the NHS.

The Trust was created in April 2020 by the merger of the three trusts of Mid Essex, Southend and Basildon, and most of the cases originated before that merger.

Its combined maternity units make it the third biggest in the country, dealing with 12,500 births a year.

Safety incidents

Basildon Hospital's maternity unit had previously been rated inadequate due to problems with leadership and staffing.

However, this had improved by the time of the most recent inspection with the service upgraded to a "requires improvement" rating.

There had also been an increase in "safety incidents", where patient safety was compromised, with 397 reported from May to July 2021, according to the CQC.

But staff were praised for the way they had managed these incidents, with learning being shared across the wider service.

At the time of the publication of the inspection report last September, the Trust said it had just recruited an additional 40 midwives.

In November 2020, the BBC reported that the Trust had been handed an urgent safety deadline by the CQC and had conditions imposed on its registration over the failings at Basildon.

This followed the death of Gabriela Pintilie in February 2019 while giving birth to her daughter and "a high volume" of whistle-blowers who had approached the regulator.

An inquest into her death concluded there had been "delays, confusion and a lack of leadership" after Ms Pintilie, 36, lost six litres of blood.

'Staggering'

Mrs Pintilie's husband Ionel had taken legal action against his Trust and his solicitor Stephanie Prior said that problems persisted.

Responding to the number of successful claims in 2020-21, she said: "I think it's staggering.

"These pay-outs have been made because claims have been successful whether they've been fully litigated or whether they've been settled out of court, but the fact of the matter is that the NHS trust is not learning from its mistakes, and rectifying issues and problems that have caused these claims to be made in the first place."

NHS Resolution guidance says the list of compensation pay-outs made by trusts should not be treated as a league table owing to "different levels of risk because of the variations in the nature and complexity of the procedures they perform".

However, Mid and South Essex's figures are still the worst when compared with similar-sized institutions performing the same acute hospital functions.

A spokesman for the Trust said: "Since our merger, we are one of the largest trusts in England and the figure is for all clinical claims across all of our sites settled in 2020-21.

"The incidents giving rise to these claims could have happened up to two decades before.

"Over the last few years we have made improvements to our maternity services, including recruiting 40 newly-qualified midwives, a consultant midwife, practice development midwives and maternity care assistants and securing almost £2m in funding for the further recruitment and development of staff.

"We are pleased that the CQC's latest inspection recognised the work that has taken place and improved our rating."