After a week where 14 NHS Trusts were found to have serious problems and 11 were put into a ‘special measures’ scheme, attention has been drawn to the high level of successful clinical negligence claims brought against one particular trust. The Yorkshire Post identified that the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Trust, which runs hospitals in Goole, Grimsby, and Scunthorpe, made clinical negligence payments, including legal costs, totalling about £8.4m in 2009/10 – £3.4m more than its contribution to the national risk sharing scheme, which covers all NHS trusts in England.

Philippa Luscombe, partner in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Solicitors, said: “Whilst care has to be taken when drawing comparisons with figures, as all trusts vary in size and with the nature of patients that they see, this is a trust with a very high level of successful claims against it. Taking into account the high tests necessary to succeed in a clinical negligence case, there are clearly a number of problems at this trust. It is a shame that data regarding claims is not used more to identify problems with particular hospital or areas of care. We are dealing with claims against this trust and it seems likely that there will be more people looking to claim as the failings become more public, however, news that failings are being investigated and improvements mandated should come as reassurance to the many people using these hospitals”.

Significant progress is being made rapidly to assess the performance of trusts – not just the 14 identified in the Keogh review. Professor Sir Mike Richards, the new Chief Inspector of Hospitals has called for NHS patients to join inspection teams as part of plans to radically change the way hospitals in England are assessed. The aim is that review teams, made up of patients, doctors, nurses and other professionals, will give all hospitals with acute services in England ratings with the aim of identifying and remedying failings at an early stage.