By Rob George
CASH-STRAPPED health chiefs have forked out more than £60,000 in compensation to patients for personal items damaged during treatment at the county’s hospitals, the Observer can reveal.
A total of £60,051 was paid out by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (WAHT) in the past three years and health bosses have admitted guidelines on patient property are now being reviewed.
The figures were revealed in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by the Observer and cover damages to clothing or other personal items during treatment from admission at Accident and Emergency or simply for routine procedures.
The trust, which is an estimated £59m in debt, operates Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and Kidderminster Hospital.
Almost half the £60k outlay was paid out in 2013/14 when the Trust paid £28,636 to compensate patients.
A dramatic fall followed in 2014/15 when £12,230 was forked out but compensation claims rose last year as WAHT paid out £19,185 in 2015/16.
Speaking to the Observer, Peter Pinfield, chairman of Healthwatch Worcestershire said the figures were a concern.
“That is quite a high figure for one trust to be paying out, I dread to think what the figures are like nationally for claims,” the watchdog chair said.
“The major concern is if the trust is paying out sums of money like this, that’s money not going on services for our local community and that’s worrying in this current climate.
“However it’s equally important to highlight there is a mechanism in place to ensure people can make a claim should a personal item be damaged while they are in hospital.
“Obviously we want the things people take with them into hospital to remain undamaged but at least there is something in place to ensure compensation can be sought should something go wrong,” he added.
A Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing our patient property and money policy to make it more robust and explicit about personal items being patients’ own responsibility and more information will soon be included on all admissions letters.
“We are committed to ensuring that any belongings patients bring with them when they are admitted to our hospitals are as safe as possible.
“However, we do ask that they bring as few personal items of value as possible with them.
“When they are admitted to hospital all patients are provided with a property bag so that any personal items can be kept safely together and moved with them if they are transferred to another ward.”