42% rise in claims against HSE since 2015, Dáil told

Irish Examiner - - News - Maresa Fa­gan

The num­ber of claims taken against the HSE and HSE­funded ser­vices has risen by 42% over the past five years, new fig­ures show.

The State Claims Agency (SCA), which man­ages per­sonal in­jury and prop­er­ty­dam­age claims by staff and mem­bers of the pub­lic, has seen a steady in­crease in the num­ber of claims made against the health ser­vice and ser­vices funded by the HSE over the past five years.

Fig­ures fur­nished to the Dáil show the SCA was man­ag­ing 7,104 claims against the HSE and HSE-funded ser­vices by June 30, rep­re­sent­ing a 42% in­crease on the num­ber of claims be­ing man­aged in 2015 (5,007).

The fig­ures in­clude cases of clin­i­cal neg­li­gence, as well as non-clin­i­cal or gen­eral claims re­lat­ing to other haz­ards or dam­age to prop­erty across the health ser­vice and HSE-funded ser­vices, in­clud­ing acute and com­mu­nity ser­vices, na­tional sup­port ser­vices, dis­abil­ity ser­vices, and Sec­tion 38 ser­vices such as vol­un­tary acute hos­pi­tals.

The fig­ures were cap­tured by the SCA’s Na­tional In­ci­dent Man­age­ment Sys­tem, which col­lates data on ad­verse events, re­portable or dan­ger­ous in­ci­dents, no­harm in­ci­dents, near misses, and com­plaints.

Of the claims be­ing taken against the HSE and its funded ser­vices, al­most half re­lated to clin­i­cal care (3,432), with ex­po­sure to phys­i­cal haz­ards ac­count­ing for around 20%, or 1,420 claims, fol­lowed by psy­cho­log­i­cal haz­ards at 1,069 claims (15%), and be­havioural haz­ards at just over 9%, or 674 claims.

The re­main­ing 509 (7.2%) of all claims re­lated to ex­po­sure to chem­i­cal haz­ards (184), crashes or col­li­sions (175), bi­o­log­i­cal haz­ards (123), and prop­erty dam­age or loss (23).

The type of in­ci­dent or haz­ard — which is clas­si­fied based on an in­ter­na­tional stan­dard, and groups sim­i­lar in­ci­dents to­gether as high-level haz­ards — was not de­ter­mined in four claims.

A fur­ther break­down of the 7,104 claims shows that more than half were at the lit­i­ga­tion stage (3,931) and al­most 5%, or 346 claims, had gone to trial.

By the end of June, the claims agency was in­ves­ti­gat­ing 1,730 claims and con­clud­ing 916 claims, while 11 were un­der ap­peal.

In the first six months of this year, the SCA had re­solved 941 claims against the HSE. Last year saw the high­est num­ber of HSE claims re­solved at 1,595, which ac­counted for one in five of all claims against the health ser­vice in 2019.

The claims agency op­er­ates as part of the Na­tional Trea­sury Man­age­ment Agency (NTMA), which deals with claims against other State au­thor­i­ties in ad­di­tion to the health ser­vice.

Last year, the NTMA had 11,580 ac­tive claims and out­stand­ing fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­i­ties in the or­der of €3.6bn, which have dou­bled since 2015.

Al­most three in 10 of all claims against the State re­lated to clin­i­cal care, and ac­counted for €2.7bn, or 75%, of all out­stand­ing li­a­bil­i­ties.

The cost of man­ag­ing cases rose from €271m in 2015 to €470m in 2019.

The fig­ures come as the Gov­ern­ment plans to in­tro­duce manda­tory open dis­clo­sure of in­ci­dents un­der the Pa­tient Safety Bill drafted in De­cem­ber, which has yet to be en­acted.

The bill will mean that pa­tient safety in­ci­dents must be no­ti­fied to rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Health In­for­ma­tion and Qual­ity Author­ity (Hiqa), the chief in­spec­tor of so­cial ser­vices, and the Men­tal Health Com­mis­sion.

In re­sponse to a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion on the new leg­is­la­tion, Health Min­is­ter Stephen Don­nelly last week com­mit­ted to pro­gress­ing the leg­is­la­tion as out­lined in the new pro­gramme for gov­ern­ment.

Manda­tory open dis­clo­sure, he said, would en­sure that pa­tients and their fam­i­lies re­ceive “ap­pro­pri­ate, timely in­for­ma­tion” re­gard­ing any in­ci­dent re­lat­ing to their care.

Un­der the Pa­tient Safety Bill, pri­vate hos­pi­tals will also be mon­i­tored and in­spected by Hiqa.

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