FoI uncovers medical secrets

An investigation carried out by Scotland on Sunday has revealed that hospitals in Scotland are making secret multi-million pound payments to victims of medical negligence.

15 of Scotland's health boards were asked, under FoI, to provide details of medical negligence compensation payouts for the past two years.

It was revealed that NHS Tayside last year paid out around £3m to one family without even informing the health board members who are meant to scrutinise expenditure.

When the SNP shadow health minister, Shona Robison, sent a letter to the chairman of the Tayside board asking for details of what had gone wrong she was informed that the information was confidential. NHS Tayside said in a statement that in settling claims there is a duty of confidentiality implicit in the procedure and NHS Tayside would not breach this duty of confidentiality. "Where such claims have been settled in court then these will already be in the public domain. Those settled out of court will remain confidential," a spokesman said.

Despite the huge sums of public money involved, public officials involved in out-of-court cases have refused to provide details of what went wrong, who was responsible, and whether the correct disciplinary procedures were followed. Patients' groups and politicians have demanded an end to the culture of secrecy surrounding cases of medical compensation, warning that without accountability, many patients will face an unacceptable risk.

Revealed: how hospitals hide their blunders (Scotland on Sunday, 30 October 2005)