Half of region’s hospitals see falls in negligence premiums

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HALF of hospitals in Yorkshire have seen a fall in insurance premiums paid towards NHS clinical negligence claims following major changes to reward them for better performance.

The biggest fall in payments was at Sheffield Children’s Hospital which saw a reduction in payments of a third to £950,000 in 2013-14 into a central pot held by the NHS Ligitation Authority against claims for incidents where care has gone wrong.

There was a further fall of a quarter to £2.4m at Airedale NHS trust, while Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS trust paid out £10.3m, 20 per cent less than the previous year.

Overall, hospitals in the region paid £108m into the fund in 2013-14, slightly less than the year before.

In contrast, there was a rise in payments of nine per cent the previous year.

The changes halt inexorable rises in payments by NHS trusts following huge increases in claims for clinical negligence.

Other falls were recorded at Bradford, Calderdale and Huddersfield, Harrogate, Leeds, and South Tees NHS trusts

The biggest rise in payments was at the Barnsley NHS trust which saw them go up 22 per cent to £5.1m.

Payments at the neighbouring Doncaster and Bassetlaw trust were up 19 per cent.

The reductions come following a change in the way indemnity cover is priced.

Organisations with fewer and less costly claims pay less as part of efforts to improve patient safety and reduce claims.

Rob Wilson, deputy director of finance at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS trust, said premiums had been reduced for two years running because the number of claims made against the it was “significantly lower than anticipated for a trust of our size”.

He said: “Our staff work exceptionally hard to provide high quality, safe care and this is just one indicator which reflects this.”

A spokesman for Barnsley NHS trust said calculations were based on the relative size, activity levels, claims histories and outstanding claims of trusts but more weight had been placed on claims experience in the previous five years and the likely cost of outstanding claims.

“The hospital’s position is that this is not a reflection of our clinical safety, which is our utmost priority,” he said.

“In the same period, the claims paid out by the NHS Litigation Authority on our behalf actually reduced by £3m.

“In addition our premiums are still comparable with those of many other NHS trusts.”

Official figures from the litigation authority, which indemnifies NHS trusts against claims, reveal there was a rise in clinical negligence claims of 18 per cent in the 12 months to March in England.

Some £1.2 billion was paid out in 2013-14, including £259m spent on claimants’ legal costs and £92m on costs for defence against claims.

Bosses say they have introduced the new system to financially reward NHS trusts with fewer less costly claims, “incentivising the reduction of harm and improving patient and staff safety”.

They said the authority was working more closely with organisations with higher levels of claims to support them in making reductions.