FINE Gael Cork South Central TD and Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, Jerry Buttimer, has been informed that in 2011 more than €81 million was paid on negligence claims by the HSE through the State Claims Agency. Thirty two million euro, or around 40% of this figure, was spent on the HSE’s legal defence fees. The figures were provided to the Oireachtas Health Committee by Minister for Health, James Reilly TD.
“More than €81 million was paid on negligence claims by the HSE in 2011, an increase of 2.4% on the amount paid in 2010. This is a worryingly large amount of money which could be put to better use elsewhere in the health service.
“Thirty two million euro of the overall amount went to HSE legal defence teams, that’s around 40%. This is despite a cap being introduced on the legal teams’ fees which has reduced them by more than 20%. Clearly more needs to be done to ensure that more taxpayers money can be directed where it’s really needed.
“People who have been injured because of negligence deserve to be compensated fairly. We must look for ways to reduce the associated costs, so that a higher proportion can go to those who have been injured and so that savings can be made which can be spent on frontline health services.
“The figures are startling and they reveal an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed. Personal injury, medical negligence and third party property damage claims against the HSE are managed by the State Claims Agency. Other claims are still covered by insurance policies.
“In 2009, an 8% reduction in the cost of legal services for HSE negligence claims was implemented. In the recent round of tenders for legal services the State Claims Agency further reduced the level of fees. Legal teams acting for the State had their fees capped at 40% of what is being paid to solicitors representing plaintiffs. These measures have resulted in a reduction of legal fees by as much as 20% yet despite this we are still left with massive legal bills.
“At a time when resources are scarce we need to be concentrating taxpayers’ money on delivering services to patients, not paying hefty legal fees. We must take a serious look at how we can make savings in this area.”