The NHS strikes again. It has been reported that since 1995, £2.1 billion has been given to mothers and babies as compensation for medical negligence during childbirth. Costs include lifelong treatment for children who have experienced brain damage, cerebral palsy and developmental delay. This news comes as the maternity services are suffering from cuts in spending, short-staffed hospitals and rising birthrates. In England, the NHS reduced spending on maternity by £55 million in 2006-07, while the birthrate has risen 16 percent since 2001.
NHS shortcomings have caused an increasing number of litigations from the victims of insufficient care. The cost of maternity-related claims has risen from £163 million in 2003-04 to £288 million in 2007-08. One in every six thousand births in the UK has resulted in legal action against the health service. For example, Tristian Blomfield was awarded just over £8.26 million after suffering permanent brain damage at birth. At eight years old, he has cerebral palsy in all four limbs and needs constant care.
So what needs to be done? Well, in the short run, money should be spent on improving care to decrease the ridiculously high compensation costs the NHS has had to pay. Yet the current health care structure just won’t cut it. For example, despite the fact that Labour has increased spending on the NHS by £57 billion since 1997, the productivity of consultants has fallen over 20 percent during the same period.
In terms of health care reform, privatization is holds the key. Only an increase in the role of the private sector would introduce the necessary competition and efficiency savings. These changes need to start soon – just ask Tristian and his family.