There has been a 25% increase in the number of negligence claims for poor maternity care in London over the last year, pushing up the NHS compensation bill.
New figures reveal that birth injury compensation payouts in London totalled £41 million last year.
Common cases include children being left with brain damage, cerebral palsy, or developmental problems.
The obstetrics payouts account for just under half of the capital’s NHS compensation damages, with the total sitting at £85 million in 2009-10.
Katherine Murphy, spokesperson for the Patients Association campaign group said: “NHS leaders need to acknowledge these complaints, take them seriously and work to improve these failings.
“If it’s a systems failure then something needs to be done about it, but if it’s because of staff shortages then this is incredibly worrying, especially as the NHS is facing making huge savings.”
According to The Evening Standard, statistics show that during the period 2009-10, just under 300 compensation claims were launched against London NHS Trusts, with a 24% rise in the number of actions brought.
One-thousand and forty non legal complaints were made against London Hospitals, which represents an increase of over a fifth.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust saw an increase in medical negligence claims brought against them by a third. A third of all maternity law suits in London were made against this trust, which operates Queen’s Hospital in Romford and King George in Ilford.
Subsequently, the trust is subject of an investigation by the Care Quality Commission NHS Watchdog. The maternity units have seen five women die in the last eighteen months.
Additionally, Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust has paid out £7.3 million pounds in maternity related compensation.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge said: “The Government’s focus should be on improving care rather than letting hospitals sink or swim. These are shocking figures.NHS London, the Department of Health and the hospitals concerned must take responsibility and act.”
A spokesperson for NHS London said: “More than 130,000 babies were born in London last year, up 16 per cent over the past five years. The vast majority of births in London are happy, healthy occasions and we are working hard to tackle the small number of incidents where this is not the case.”
One woman, Anna Marie-Pitton, has recently lodged a complaint against Queen’s Hospital where she was admitted in agnoy after going into labour.
Her barrister stated that 29 midwives ignored her pleas for help and left her alone, even though doctors had classed her as a “high risk” patient.
SHe was eventually rushed into theatre after being left alone and ignored for several hours.
She said: “When I arrived at Queen’s I was in absolute agony. The midwife told me I wasn’t in labour, though I knew I was ready to go.
“I kept asking for an epidural but they refused to give me one, saying it was too early. I rang the bell several times but nobody came. Even when my husband went looking for help they ignored us.
“I was terrified. There was no compassion and I felt no dignity there for women in labour.
“I feel I was let down by the NHS in my hour of need. It left me feeling so depressed later. I really fear for more vulnerable women going into labour at that hospital.”
A spokesperson for the hospital said: “The Trust has one of the largest maternity units in the whole country.
“We would therefore expect to have a relatively high number of claims. It is disappointing that the number of claims is rising, but this is mirrored across the country.”