COLCHESTER General Hospital paid out more than £3 million in damage claims last year.

Just 21 claims made up the total of £3,165,252 during 2007/8.

In 2006/7 there were 13 claims, which totalled slightly more than £3 million and in 2005/6 there were 24 claims, worth just £1 million.

Claims for damages against NHS organisations are handled by a separate body called the NHS Litigation Authority.

Members of the authority make a contribution to its funds in case any claims are made against them.

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said: "The Trust is committed to providing high-quality patient care and a safe environment for all its users, including patients, members of staff, members of the public and contractors.

"The fact that we were awarded NHS foundation trust status on May 1 this year means that we are essentially a high-performing organisation.

"Patient safety is of paramount importance to the Trust, and we are committed to taking every step possible to minimise risk.

"Our Trust is an open and transparent organisation, and on the few occasions when mistakes do occur, we have the right mechanisms in place to ensure that lessons are learned and disseminated throughout the organisation."

He added it was impossible to say whether the number of claims or payouts had increased due to people contracting superbugs such as MRSA or clostridium difficile.

No one from the Litigation Authority was available for comment.