Figures obtained after Freedom of Information requests to the NHS Litigation Authority and NHS trusts have shown that within the last five years there has been a jump of almost a third in the number of NHS employees who have claimed compensation for injuries suffered in the workplace.
Almost £20m a year is claimed in this way and the story comes just weeks after it emerged that the NHS was having to pay out £15.7bn a year for medical accidents, which is itself a 13% rise on a year ago and accounts for roughly a seventh of the health service’s annual budget.
The figures show that the number of claims made by NHS staff was 3,287 last year compared to 2,535 in 2005/06 and, though the NHS budget has been “ringfenced” from government cuts, it nevertheless has to make efficiency savings worth around £20bn over the next few years to enable more money to go directly towards patient care. Therefore, news that more money than ever is going towards paying compensation to members of staff is likely to be controversial
Especially as the figures include the case of almost £4,000 paid out to a nurse who slipped on a piece of potato on a ward floor, £5,750 awarded to a worker who fell over when the bottom of his trousers got caught on a metal bracket on a wall and £3,400 given out to a porter working in a hospital in Blackpool allegedly received a “whiplash-type injury” while pushing a trolley.
The TaxPayers Alliance has expressed concern that the figures may mean less money being available for patient care. It says that while some accidents are unavoidable, those in charge must work to ensure that they are kept to a minimum and that they reject and fight claims which may be more frivolous.
Are the figures evidence of the need for health and safety improvements within the NHS or are they, in the light of some of the claims, rather more due to today’s “compensation culture”? What do you think?