BOTCHED maternity care has cost the NHS in Scotland at least £108 million in negligence payouts over the past decade, with complaints up by more than one- quarter in four years.
Details revealed under Freedom of Information legislation show the cost to health boards of settling legal claims by mothers whose babies were injured in childbirth, or who suffered mishandled labours, totals £108,102,404 since 2003.
The true figure is likely to be significantly higher as some boards destroyed records of older negligence cases.
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Complaints shot up between 2009/10 and 2010/11, from 214 to 307, with increases at six health boards in particular: Lothian, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Forth Valley, Grampian, Highland and Lanarkshire.
Most boards have seen complaints fall since, but the Scottish total remains 26 per cent higher than in 2009/10.
The driver appears to be NHS Grampian, where maternity complaints have risen year-on-year from 31 in 2009 to 73 in 2013. This coincided with an inspectors' report criticising hygiene at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital. In June, the Government announced a £120m maternity hospital and cancer centre for Aberdeen.
Gillian Smith, director of the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland, said staff levels in Scotland were better than south of the Border but the UK was caught out by an unexpected baby boom in the year to June 2012.
"In Scotland, it has settled a little," she said. "But what we have not seen a reduction in - and what we're seeing an increase in - is women with complex needs and complex pregnancies."
Some health boards have also struggled to appoint obstetricians.
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was to be deplored if any care fell below the highest standard. He pointed out that 93 per cent of mothers-to-be reported their care as good or excellent, and added: "Scotland is recognised as having some of the safest hospitals in the world. Our world-leading Scottish Patient Safety Programme, introduced in all Scottish acute hospitals, aims to reduce all adverse incidents."