Short on maternity staff, Britain NHS faces 4.5 bn pound in claims

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London, Sep 23 (UNI) Alleged blunders by midwives and doctors have caused several babies severe brain damage in Britain and the National Health Scheme (NHS) was facing 4.5 billion pounds in compensation claims by affected families.

The huge sum is detailed in confidential data from the NHS Litigation Authority, which handles most of the legal claims for medical negligence against the health service in England.

It shows that the organisation has been fighting a barrage of legal cases in which the compensation being sought by families amounted to a total of 4.49 billion pounds.

As much as 3.3 billion pounds of the total claims, relates to incidents in which a child has developed cerebral palsy, brain damage which is often caused by being starved of oxygen during birth, and been left disabled. A further 739 million pounds involves claims over what the NHSLA calls ''other brain damage'', the Observer reported.

The new president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran accused hospitals of putting babies and pregnant women at unnecessary risk by not employing enough senior staff on labour wards.

''The staffing numbers for consultants aren't adequate at 40 to 50 per cent of hospitals in the UK, though I'm sure that will apply to midwives too. The risk incidence must be greater at those hospitals,'' the paper quoted Mr Arulkumaran as saying. he said.

The Department of Health defended the maternity services in England, saying litigation costs could be high because lifetime care was expensive.

Department's chief advisor on maternity care Gwyneth Lewis said, ''Due to the skill and expertise of our midwives and doctors, England is one of the safest places to have a baby.

There is no hard evidence to suggest that up to half of all maternity units are unsafe.'' He added that the government had overseen a major expansion in the number of consultants.

General secretary of the Royal College of Midwives Karlene Davis said, ''The service is at breaking point.'' UNI

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