While the Government is determinedly cutting back public funding at the expense of NHS staff and services, recent figures show that hospitals in the North East of England are spending millions of pounds on medical negligence compensation claims and on hiring temporary and agency staff.
Throughout 2009-2010, hospitals in the region paid out a total of £22,307,000 to people who had received botched healthcare and subsequently made compensation claims.
And a further £62million was spent ensuring that North East hospitals had sufficient staff cover, hiring agency and temporary staff to fill gaps made by job losses and hiring freezes.
Jake Turnbull, spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing Northern region, said: "This level of spending is completely unacceptable.
"Here in the North East we've got a recruitment freeze, frontline NHS jobs lost, wards closed, and services cut back in the name of cost efficiencies. And yet, at the same time, we have got millions of pounds being spent on temporary and agency cover.
"It is more cost effective, but also clinically safer, to ensure that NHS trusts employ permanent staff with the right skill levels and skills mix, rather than relying on high levels of agency and temporary cover, where individuals may not be familiar with the specific clinical practices or even, for example, the hospital layout and procedures."
One successful medical negligence claim was made by Christina Malcolm, of Durham City, who suffered a haemorrhage eight years ago that went undiagnosed by her doctors. It caused acute short-term memory loss that means she can never work again.
Ms Malcolm took her case to court and won compensation of £4million.
David Stout, acting chief executive of NHS North East, said: "Patients deserve the highest quality healthcare, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of people treated in this area every year experience good quality, safe and effective care.
"But if patients do not receive the treatment they expect and deserve and mistakes are made, then it is right that they are appropriately compensated."
Lord Jeremy Beecham, a former Newcastle city council leader, has called for an investigation into North East hospitals' spending.
Lord Beecham said: "We do not understand why this amount of money is being spent on agency staff and we feel it is important to have an explanation."
Read more on the story (JournalLive)
Read about claiming against the NHS (FindLaw)
Find local personal injury solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)