Superbug Claims ‘Underestimated’

The amount the NHS has paid out in hospital superbug-related compensation claims is 10 times higher than previously thought, figures show. The NHS Litigation Authority has been saying recently there have only been seven cases in the past four years. But updated figures show there have been 68 cases, costing the NHS a total of more than £8m.

Campaigners said it only represented a fraction of those getting hospital bugs, as cases were hard to pursue. The figures, released by the NHS Litigation Authority, which represents the health service in legal cases, cover all hospital-acquired infection, although the majority of the cases listed are thought to be over MRSA.

More than 1,000 deaths a year are linked to MRSA with many thousands more people left seriously injured after getting the infection. But despite the problem, compensation claims have been hard to pursue as it is nearly impossible to tell exactly where and when a person may have been affected as people carry the infection in the community.

As revealed by the BBC News website a month ago, the tide is now turning after lawyers have turned to health and safety laws to pursue the NHS.

Many are arguing MRSA is a hazardous substance and, therefore, the NHS has a duty of care to staff and patients to protect them from it. But at the time, the NHS Litigation Authority said there had been only seven cases involving hospital-acquired infections from April 2002 to March 2006.

The agency has now released new information showing the figures are nearly 10 times higher at 68 – 55 of which have come in the past two years. They also show that over £5m has been paid out in damages and £3m in costs during the four years.

The NHS Litigation Authority said it had “unfortunately understated” the number of cases due to an oversight in how the records are compiled. But a spokeswoman said as claims could cite a number of complaints the payouts might not have been made solely on the grounds of hospital-acquired infections.

Tony Field, of the MRSA Support patients group, said the latest data was a “boost” as it showed more people had been getting “what they deserved”.

“It is nice to know people have been having some success. But we have to put this in the context of how many people are getting MRSA. It is just the tip of the ice berg. Hopefully in the future with lawyers using this other legislation they will be able to win more cases.”