MRSA victims failing to win compensationLow number of successful superbug cases

02 August 2007

 

Victims of MRSA are failing to win compensation because it’s hard to pin the blame on hospitals, Which? has learnt.

The superbug is linked to more than 1,500 deaths a year and has left others severely ill or disabled.

But figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that less than a third of claims are successful.

Lawyers say this is because it’s hard to prove where and when an infection starts.

Compensation

Since 2000, the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) has ruled on 431 MRSA claims in England, but only 135 have resulted in compensation.

In Wales, 89-year-old Kitty Cope won out-of-court damages after an infection in 2001, at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, left her disabled. Tests proved that MRSA was contracted there and documents showed staff didn’t follow policies on infection control.

Kitty’s case raised hopes that more cases could be won if victims could show that hospitals didn't follow their policies.

But the NHSLA figures show that only two of 92 cases stating this have won damages.

Infection control

Clinical negligence lawyer Sarah Rowland, of Irwin Mitchell solicitors, said: ‘Although MRSA is a massive problem in hospitals, it’s difficult to bring a claim because it’s hard to say exactly when and where a person got MRSA.

‘If you can show a hospital hasn't complied with infection-control policies, you’ve got evidence to go on but that isn’t enough to say this person contracted MRSA in hospital and should get damages.’