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State Claims Agency Report Reveals Clinical Negligence Data

The State Claims Agency has published a report revealing the most common clinical incidents in Ireland and the cost of settling clinical negligence claims.

The report-entitled “National Clinical Incidents, Claims and Costs”-reveals the most common clinical incidents in Ireland and the case of settling clinical negligence claims in the period between 2010 and 2014. Its lead author Dr Dubhfeasa Slattery states that its purpose is to help improve patient safety by analysing national data on clinical incidents in Ireland. The hope is that by studying the results, a “learning health system” can be developed that provides safer care.

The report reveals that more than 206,000 clinical incidents in Ireland were reported to the State Claims Agency over the five year period. Not all of these reports were attributable to medical negligence, and therefore not all resulting in clinical negligence claims. The incidents were divided into five major categories – Medicine, Surgery, Maternity Services, Disability Services and Care of the Elderly.

In the Medicine category-which had the most clinical incidents reported-the prevailing adverse outcomes of negligence were attributable to a delay or failure to diagnose and treat. This most often occurred in a high-stress setting, such as the emergency room. Other common claims were made due to the incorrect medicine or dosage of medicine being prescribed or administered, and serious soft tissue damage – typically caused by bed sores due to a lack of nursing care.

The delay or failure to treat was again the leading cause of adverse outcomes. in the surgical category, too. However, in both in the Surgery category and the Maternity Services category the high percentage of adverse outcomes attributable to faulty equipment and missing or misplaced clinical records was alarmingly large.

The leading clinical incidents in Ireland in the Maternity Services category were post-partum haemorrhages and perineal tears. Issues with medication (such as incorrect dosage or errors in prescriptions) and serious soft tissue damage dominated the clinical incidents in the Disability Services and Care of the Elderly categories. A further 66,000 medical incidents were reported to the State Claims Agency during the period being investigated that were not regarded to be of a clinical nature.

It is difficult to obtain a clear grasp on the number of clinical negligence claims made during the period and the cost of settling them, as the figures quoted in the report (2,873 claims and €288 million in settlement costs) are misleading. They included claims made during the period not settled during the period, and pre-2010 claims settled between 2010 and 2014. They were also inflated during 2012 by DePuy hip replacement claims, the Lourdes Redress scheme, and by the volume of claims made for unnecessary symphysiotomy procedures.

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