A STRUGGLING NHS board has been hit with £17m in negligence claims – almost a third of them lodged by their own staff.
According to the latest figures, NHS Fife is facing 77 claims of medical negligence, including one resulting in birth defect.
A staggering 31 cases of liability were also lodged by NHS Fife staff, seven of whom are claiming compensation after alleged assaults by patients.
Fife’s rise in claims, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, mirrors other boards across the country, a trend critics suspect is linked with cutbacks and staff shortages in hospitals.
However, a source with senior experience in NHS Fife, believed “ambulance-chasing lawyers” were contributing to the issue.
He said: “The amount of cases is rising which is probably a reflection of our society which is becoming more litigation conscious.
“NHS staff by and large are pretty conscientious, hardworking people and they are only human – things can and do go wrong – but given the sheer numbers of procedures carried out it’s relatively rare.
“A lot of the cases which start off might eventually prove unfounded, it doesn’t always mean the NHS is liable.”
The list of active cases, released after a Freedom of Information request, revealed six writs involving injury or damage caused during surgical procedure, and ten alleged a failure to obtain informed consent from patients.
A further ten involved a failure to diagnose or a delay in diagnosis, seven cases referred to failure or delay in treatment, four cases of medication errors and four failures to x-ray.
There were also two cases of surgical material being left in a patient’s body.
The vast majority of claimants, 53 of 77, were women and six cases specifically dealt with maternity issues. Three of these were failure to respond timely to abnormal fetal heart rate, two involved problems with a forceps delivery and one case resulted in birth defect.
In response, MP Alex Rowley, who has been campaigning for a review of health and social services in Fife, said: “I’m really concerned yet I’m also not surprised given the number of cases I have taken up on behalf of people where they’ve had a poor experience with NHS Fife.
“I’m due to meet with the Health Secretary at the beginning of February and I’m going to be raising my concerns with her.
“NHS staff are run off their feet and at the Victoria there are times where the hospital has been run at capacity levels that are unacceptable.
“The majority of staff are working way beyond what is reasonable, working under massive pressure and they need to be supported.”
Earlier this week the health secretary announced a £7m fund over three years to help Fife’s bed-blocking crisis.
Mr Rowley said: “Given these massive figures, can NHS Fife afford a £17m bill? No, clearly it can’t. But more importantly people in Fife should have confidence to know they will be dealt with properly and I don’t know if they do.”
Fife’s Victoria Hospital has come under fire in the past, a stay there was described by one patient as “the worst ten days of my life”.
In 2012, Linda Gatiens claimed she was made to sit in a dirty bed for three hours after being abandoned by staff.
Mrs Gatiens, who at the time was 64, was also given IV treatment in the hospital corridor and made to use her coat as a cover when the £170m hospital ran out of blankets.
On another occasion, a 25-year-old Scots mum was forced to give birth on the frozen pavement outside the hospital after nurses failed to answer a door buzzer for six minutes.