Association of Personal Injury Lawyers
A not-for-profit organisation representing injured people

Childbirth failures account for nearly half of NHS compensation bill

10 Feb 2016
APIL news

Hundreds of babies are left brain-damaged each year because the NHS does not learn from its failures, say lawyers.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) said the number of compensation claims for cerebral palsy and brain damage sustained at birth has barely changed since 2006/07. Obstetrics claims account for 41 per cent of the value of compensation claims for medical negligence against the NHS*.

“This is a prime example of how the cash-strapped NHS can reduce not only an immeasurable amount of pain and suffering but also its own considerable costs by learning from its failures,” said APIL president Jonathan Wheeler.

“The NHS figures are clear and a change of culture is needed as a matter of urgency. Whatever action is being taken currently to improve safety for expectant mothers and their children isn’t working well enough.

“It is not acceptable that the NHS still harms around 200 new mothers and babies each year, particularly when it is down to errors which should not happen, but which continue to happen time after time”.

Case reports reveal consistent failures in monitoring heartbeats during labour, missed warning signs, delays in delivery despite the warning signs, and unreasonable use of forceps. 

“Imagine what it must be like for a mother to find her child isn’t going to live the life he,or she, should because of a failure which could have been avoided,” said Mr Wheeler.

“And then there are the costs to the NHS, which run into the millions of pounds. A severely disabled child needs round-the-clock care, adapted housing,wheelchairs and other equipment. As adults they are unlikely to be able to work and support themselves, so compensation needs to support them for the rest of their lives, however long that may be.”


Notes to editors:

  • *NHSLA AnnualReport and Accounts 2014/15: Page 20. Figure 22. Click here.

  • APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) is a not-for-profit organisation whose members are dedicated to campaigning for improvements in the law to help people who are injured or become ill through no fault of their own.
  • For more information contact APIL's press and communications officers Jane Hartwell on t: 0115 943 5416, m: 07808 768623, e:
  • Visit the association's website at
  • •Follow @APIL on Twitter:

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