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Accidents on maternity wards cost NHS £1bn a year

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Accidents on maternity wards cost the NHS nearly £1 billion last year, Jeremy Hunt, the chairman of the Commons health committee, has revealed.

The former health secretary said the bill for maternity legal action was nearly twice the amount spent on maternity doctors in England. It was part of the NHS’s £2.4 billion total legal fees and compensation bill, up £137 million on the previous year.

Mr Hunt has also told the Daily Mail there is evidence that hospitals are failing to provide details of avoidable deaths despite being ordered to do so three years ago as he highlighted “appalling high” figures which showed that up to 150 lives are being lost needlessly every week in public hospitals.

Responding to the figures, Mr Hunt said: "Something has gone badly wrong."

In 2017, he told trusts to publish data on the number of avoidable deaths among patients in their care. But freedom of information responses from 59 hospital trusts, about half the total, found less than a quarter gave meaningful data on avoidable deaths.

Mr Hunt cited “major cultural challenges” which he blamed for preventing doctors and nurses from accepting any blame. He blamed lawyers who get involved “almost immediately” once something goes wrong with a patient’s care.

“Doctors, nurses and midwives worry they could lose their licence if they are found to have made a mistake. Hospital managers worry about the reputation of their organisation,” he added.

Mr Hunt said: “We have appallingly high levels of avoidable harm and death in our healthcare system. We seem to just accept it as inevitable.”

An NHS spokesman said: “Delivering the safest possible health service for patients is a priority, and the national policy on learning from deaths is clear that hospitals must publish this information every three months, as well as an annual summary, so that they are clear about any problems that have been identified and how they are being addressed.

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Source: The Telegraph, 18 September 2020

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