SOUTH Essex’s two biggest hospitals paid almost £10million in compensation and legal costs last year as a result of medical blunders.

NHS insurers paid a total of £5,081,234, in 2012/13 for claims on Basildon Hospital, while mistakes at Southend Hospital cost £4,197,553.

The total bill for the hospital trusts is close to the equivalent of hiring 330 nurses, earning £28,000 a year.

The figures were revealed by the NHS Litigation Authority, which handles compensation payouts on behalf of the UK’s hospitals.

ABasildon Hospital spokesman said procedures had been tightened recently, adding: “The hospital is committed to ensuring all its patients receive good-quality, safe care.

“During the past eight months, significant work has been undertaken to ensure we have improved systems for managing risks to patients.

“We hope thatwill be reflected in payouts by the trust in the future.”

The spokesman also said Basildon’s total was close the the national average.

It paid a total of £2.625million in damages, £1.997million in claimants’ legal costs and £457,894 to cover its own legal fees.

In Southend, the total bill was made up of £2.727million in damages, just over £1million in claimants’ legal costs and £356,000 for the hospital’s own legal costs.

Senior Southend Hospital managers insist every incident of negligence is thoroughly investigated.

Sue Hardy, the trust’s chief nurse, said: “We continuously work to reduce the risk of incidents, ensuring we learn from incidents and, where necessary, change our practice to prevent anything similar happening.

“We, naturally, regret any incidence of clinical negligence, but would like to reassure the public it is something which occurs very rarely.”

In both cases, even though the claims were settled last year, payments may relate to mistakes made any time since 1995.

Last year, 57 negligence claims were made against Basildon Hospital and 39 against the Southend trust, though many of these may not yet have been settled