Cases of medical negligence cost health trusts in Northern Ireland in excess of £80 million in 2013/14, according to official figures.
Trust compensation payouts came to £61.4 million in the 12-month period and they also had to pay a further £20 million in legal costs.
In the previous year the trusts paid £37.2 million in compensation and £13.2 million in legal fees.
The Statistics and Research Agency data shows the costs of obstetrics negligence cases and damages came to £38.1 million and £30.1 million respectively.
Horrendous compensation costs
The figures have been described as horrendous by GP Kieran McCarthy, a member of the health committee in Stormont. He says the situation is showing no sign of improvement and the Department of Health must discover why the number of cases and the costs keep going up.
In the 12-month period in 2013/14 the number of legal cases was 3,376, 61 higher than in the previous year. Of these cases 588 involved incidents in A&E departments, 568 in general surgery cases and 360 cases were in trauma and orthopaedics.
Delays in receiving medical assistance, medical staff giving incorrect treatments and failures to spot complications resulted in 955 of the negligence cases.
The Department of Health has to cut its costs to balance the books for the year but the draft 2015/16 budget will include an increase in funding.
Tough cost-cutting measures
The department’s tough measures include the closures of several minor injury units in Antrim, Armagh and Down, a loss of scores of hospital beds and reforms to the way care cover is provided in people’s homes.
Unions say the changes will increase the pressure on A&E departments in Northern Ireland and lead to further treatment delays for patients.
It is also feared that the cuts will increase the number of negligence claims even further when they are already “unbelievably high” according to Dr McCarthy.