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Isles NHS defends its negligence record

NHS SHETLAND has strongly defended its record on clinical negligence claims after coming under fire from Highland and Islands MSP Mary Scanlon.

Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for health Mary Scanlon called on NHS Shetland yesterday (Wednesday) to "learn from errors" and "re-assess the way in which they deal with such claims".

Mrs Scanlon claimed NHS Shetland was not acting in the best interest of its patients as clinical negligence payment at the health board had risen from £17,000 in 2005/06 to £77,000 in 2008/09.

But NHS Shetland chief executive Sandra Laurenson said Mrs Scanlon's interpretation of figures released by Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon was flawed.

Mrs Laurenson said NHS Shetland had not paid out £77,000 in negligence claims in 2008/09, but had contributed this amount to the Clinical Negligence and Other Risks Indemnity Scheme (CNORIS), a risk insurance scheme that all Scottish health boards pay into.

She also denied that NHS Shetland had five ongoing clinical negligence claims dating back 14 years, saying there was only one. The other four claims dated back to 2008 and 2009.

Mrs Scanlon said: "Currently NHS Shetland has five ongoing clinical negligence claims dating back to 1996.  Not only do such lengthy claims cost the tax payer thousands of pounds in legal fees, it also causes uncertainly and anxiety for claimants.

"Moreover it becomes increasingly unclear when a claim such as this, spanning 14 years, will be resolved and the case closed.

"Across Scotland clinical negligence payments have increased from £9,080,839 in 2004-05 to £27,028,278 in 2008-09. In NHS Shetland in 2008-09 over £77,000 was paid out in clinical negligence claims, compared to 2005-06 when less than £17,000 was paid out.

"Vast amounts of money being paid out on clinical negligence claims which date back many years are not in the patients best interests and NHS Shetland need to re-assess the way in which they deal with such claims.

"I would also hope that measures are put in place to learn from errors and ensure trust and confidence in our NHS system."

Last night, Ms Laurenson said: "NHS Shetland is not different from other NHS boards in Scotland. The increase in payments is into the CNORIS scheme as opposed to direct payouts to claimants.

"Our average time of resolving claims is similar to the rest of Scotland and, for the sake of clarity, we not have five cases that are outstanding since 1996."

She added: "If something has gone wrong for a patient and they are seeking legal recourse to redress that situation then that is always an issue of great concern. We would always look into that to understand what lessons need to be learned and what needs to be done differently in the future."

A spokeswoman said last night that Mrs Scanlon had no reason to believe that the information she received through answers to parliamentary question were incorrect and was standing by her comments.