An MSP has called for an independent review of NHS Lanarkshire to be carried out, after expressing concern at the amount it is paying in compensation due to clinical negligence.
According to figures obtained by the Wishaw Press through a Freedom of Information request, the organisation has paid out £31 million in compensation following complaints of inadequate care since 2006.
More than half of these settlements were due to medical errors at Wishaw General Hospital, as figures showed it accounted for £16 million of the payouts awarded over the last eight years.
John Pentland, MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw, has responded by admitting he is "very concerned" at the level of the negligence payments made by NHS Lanarkshire and at Wishaw in particular.
"Although the Wishaw figures peaked between 2009 and 2011, the cost of such payments is generally rising," he commented.
"This is the latest in a line of warning signs that all is not well in our local NHS, reinforcing my belief that there needs to be a full independent review of NHS Lanarkshire."
Mr Pentland noted that while data for the whole of Scotland is not available at the moment, it appears as if the level of clinical negligence compensation payouts in Lanarkshire is higher than the national average.
A spokesperson for NHS Lanarkshire insisted that the organisation aims to provide patients with "safe and effective care at all times" and regrets any instance where it fails to achieve this standard.
However, the official said it can take several years for particularly complex claims to "conclude through the legal process". As a result, the numbers can fluctuate each year, the spokesperson stated.
English NHS Trust Clinical Negligence Claims
This coincides with Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust's pledge to change how it deals with clinical negligence claims.
Stuart Poynor, chief executive of the body, argued that it must take a "proactive approach" to handling this sensitive issue, rather than seek to "defend the indefensible". This, he said, means the Trust must admit liability as early as possible
Speaking to the Law Gazette, Mr Poynor stated that if he is reading a case and signing a complaint apology to someone who has been let down by the Trust and is eligible to make a compensation claim, it would be wrong to let the matter be dragged out for more than a year.
"The NHS has an initial mentality of taking on complaints," he commented.
"We should automatically believe what complainants are saying rather than the other way round."
Mr Poynor insisted that his organisation has learned from cases in the past and intends to continue doing so, as well as to adopt a culture of transparency and openness when complaints are being handled.
He added that there is "no catch" when he says he does not want claims to be strung out for a long time, and pointed out that on many occasions there is no logic in letting them go unresolved for more than a year.