The leader of one of England’s biggest NHS trusts has vowed that his organisation will take a new approach to clinical negligence claims.

Stuart Poynor, chief executive of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership, told the Gazette he did not want the trust to ‘defend the indefensible’ and instead should take a ‘pro-active’ approach to claims handling.

Poynor said he has convinced the trust’s board to agree to a commitment to admitting liability as early as possible, and the new position has already seen the trust inform the NHS Litigation Authority that it wanted to settle two claims early.

‘If I am reading a case and signing a complaint apology and see that we’ve let you down, if I then find that person is eligible to claim I cannot see morally how we can get involved in something that drags out over a 12-month period,’ said Poynor, whose trust serves more than 1.1 million people.

‘We have learned from incidents and want to continue to do that. The NHS has an initial mentality of taking on complaints. We should automatically believe what complainants are saying rather than the other way round.’

Poynor was keen to stress there is no ‘catch’ in his commitment against ‘stringing out’ claims.

‘One claim where they hadn’t got a resolution for 12 months, I could not understand the logic,’ he added. ‘I took a paper asking the board not to defend the indefensible but to admit liability as quickly as we can.’

Poynor said the trust will adopt a culture of ‘openness and transparency’ in dealing with complaints. To that end, he has appointed Helene Donnelly as the partnership trust’s ‘Ambassador for Cultural Change’. Donnelly was a nurse at the Stafford Hospital who turned whistleblower to raise almost 100 complaints about patient treatment.