Birth injuries – the voluntary compensation scheme proposals
Although the UK is widely regarded as a safe place for women to give birth, on occasions the quality of hospital and neo-natal care provided is compromised by stretched and understaffed maternity services. Children suffering brain damage and conditions such as cerebral palsy at birth require round-the-clock medical care, specialist equipment and support for the rest of their lives, so it's critical that the right amount of compensation is made available as soon as possible to ensure they receive the care they desperately need.
New scheme announced
Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has announced the launch of new voluntary compensation scheme for parents whose babies are damaged at birth. The new Rapid Resolution and Redress scheme, which has gone out for consultation, is designed to investigate the 500 cases of avoidable harm to babies at birth which happen each year in England. He is anxious to move away from the current blame culture and speed up the resolution of parents’ claims.
At present, parents can bring legal proceedings against an NHS Trust if they believe their child has been damaged due to negligence around the time of the birth.
Offered as an alternative to court proceedings, under these new plans, parents will be able to join the voluntary scheme, and their claims would be assessed by investigators independent of the NHS Trust involved. Their findings would then be put before a panel of legal and medical experts who would review the claim, decide if compensation is due and arrange for payments to be made.
The Health Secretary has also announced other measures under the government’s Maternity Safety Action Plan designed to approve the standard of maternity care in the NHS:
- £8m to be spent on additional training
- £250,000 to be earmarked in a fund to be used to develop new ideas for improving maternity care
- A national quality improvement programme covering all maternity units
- Maternity ratings for every clinical commissioning group across the NHS
- A target of halving stillbirths and neonatal deaths by 2030
- The establishment of a Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, modelled on the Air Accident Investigation Branch, to begin work from April 2017.
Madeline Seibert comments that whilst anything that the Government can do to help vulnerable and injured patients is very much welcomed, the proposed Redress Scheme is financially unlikely to be an adequate replacement for damages secured through a successful legal claim.
It seems, however, that it will be possible to opt for the voluntary scheme and thus secure an early interim payment of compensation, and then offset any payments made by the NHS against damages secured through a legal award.
Madeline adds that it is imperative that a person’s legal right to reasonable compensation, which as far as possible places them back into the position that they would have been in but for the negligence, is maintained.
Your next step
Our Medical Negligence team are on hand to talk about your healthcare issues and answer your questions. So, if you’d like a confidential discussion, please call us on 0203 468 3340, or you can visit our website attwatersjamesonhill.co.uk and complete our online contact form.