Don’t Punish Victims of Clinical Negligence

NHS trusts have paid out more than £4.5 billion in the past five years for medical mistakes. About a quarter of those costs were paid to law firms to cover legal costs and the majority of the remaining figure to patients harmed by medical blunders. The legal bill for medical blunders has quadrupled in the past decade.

Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), the patient safety charity, said the growing scale of payouts was of huge concern and a massive burden on the NHS. “Clinical negligence is a huge and growing strain on the finances of the NHS, but the human cost is far greater,” said Peter Walsh, the charity’s chief executive, “Millions could be saved if there were more honesty and earlier admissions of liability.”

Once again the government has blamed claimant lawyers suggesting that they charge excessive fees when a case is successful. The government is now planning a cap on costs and fixed costs in lower value claims where costs are often bigger than the compensation awarded.

Patrick Oliver Clinical Negligence Consultant with Setfords Solicitors says: “Years ago, the government was complaining about the cost of funding clinical negligence claims with Legal Aid so over the years this was dramatically reduced. Solicitors were encouraged to use conditional fee agreements (CFAs). CFAs provide for a success fee if you win which was meant to make up for the CFA cases which were unsuccessful and for which a solicitor would not be paid. In many cases, this [the success fee] may make costs look excessive but the larger picture of access to justice needs to be considered.”

“The fact is that clinical negligence cases are difficult to prove and require expensive, technical evidence. The answer for the NHS is to raise standards and admit when they make a mistake. These steps would reduce litigation and legal costs. The government and NHS want to deal with this situation by scare mongering and restricting access to justice. Victims will lose and actually, NHS care standards will suffer because there will be no one to challenge care failures.”

“I note that recently the top 10 law firms receiving payments from the NHS were listed. 7 of those firms represent the NHS (not victims) and had racked up total fees far greater than the Claimant firms. Perhaps the NHS should look at how it pays its own lawyers first.”

If you have had medical treatment you are concerned about, contact Patrick now on 01635 887662 or poliver@setfords.co.uk.