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