New scheme for birth injury claims

Wednesday 18th April 2018

Maternity claims against the NHS have tripled in the past decade; £1.2bn in compensation was awarded in 2015/16. The recent review of compensation claims indicates that the overall cost of catastrophic birth injuries has reached almost £2bn. Most cases involve a failure to monitor babies’ heart rates and to detect oxygen starvation, resulting in brain damage.

The current scheme

It takes an average of 12 years for families to see a resolution to their case where their baby has been injured because of poor medical care during pregnancy or labour. This is because the impact of birth related injuries such as cerebral palsy cannot be fully assessed until the child is older. Consequently, medical experts can take years to report on prognosis.

The new scheme

The new scheme for maternity claims will take effect from April 2019. The scheme aims to speed up the process by which the child gets access to compensation by admitting fault much sooner. This avoids a prolonged investigation period, court action and inevitable high legal costs as a result. Earlier access to the compensation enables the child to obtain essential housing modifications, equipment, care, treatment and therapy sooner.

The scheme also aims to reduce failures leading to clinical negligence claims by encouraging a learning culture as proposed by the Rapid Resolution and Redress (RRR) scheme for severe birth injuries.

What impact will the new scheme have?

The potential impact of the scheme should not to be underestimated. Whilst the impact on maternity claims is evident as discussed above, the scheme has the potential of making significant NHS cost savings. £2bn is a substantial amount of money capable of making significant change in the NHS.

Care does however need to be taken to ensure that the scheme allows for full compensation of injuries, for legal representation, and for families to be aware of their rights. Claims involving birthing injuries go on for a long time for a reason; they are the most complex and technical of clinical negligence claims. They often require several experts to report on the treatment provided, as well as the condition and prognosis of the injured child. Whilst saving public money is always welcome, savings need to be made in the right way.

If you have been affected by cerebral palsy or a severe birth injury as a result of Clinical Negligence, please contact us to discuss how to make a claim.

Sumaya Ali, Trainee Solicitor