National Audit Office Reveals Cost of Maternity Medical Negligence Cover

A review by the National Audit Office has revealed that the cost of insuring against maternity medical negligence has increased to £700 for every live birth in England.

According to figures released today by the National Audit Office, the NHS spends almost £500million each year insuring against maternity medical negligence claims for when babies sustain avoidable injuries during the delivery process.

Explaining that maternity services throughout England were generally good for women and babies, the public spending watchdog said there was still a lot of scope for improvement and highlighted “wide unexplained variations” between NHS trusts in the rates of readmissions, injuries and infections.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4´s Today programme, Laura Blackwell – the Director of Health Value for Money Studies at the National Audit Office, said that the number of maternity medical negligence claims had risen significantly in recent years.

She also commented that it was difficult to assess the current state of affairs within the NHS because it takes on average four years for a maternity medical negligence claim to be settled. It is also the case that parents do not also claim immediately after an avoidable injury has occurred, and it can be some years later before a claim for maternity medical negligence compensation is initiated.

The National Audit Office highlighted that the number of compensation claims for maternity medical negligence has risen by 80% in the last five years, that the cost of insurance cover in 2012 was £482million, and the average settlement per claim was £277,000.

The watchdog attributed the volume of claims to a shortage of midwives and consultants on maternity wards – concluding that a further 2,300 midwives are required to address a national shortage which saw a quarter of maternity units closed to admission for at least half a day last year because the demand for beds outstripped capacity.

The report also commented that more than half of maternity units are not meeting the standards recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.