McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog

Medical negligence fixed fees

Each year I see a rise in medical negligence cases. There are two angles you can look at this. Firstly, more people are claiming as they realise that they are able to claim after being let down by the NHS or secondly that there are more failures by NHS staff.

It is true that clinical negligence claims cost the NHS billions of pounds. However if you are let down by a business then you are entitled to seek redress. NHS care is usually very good and most people don’t have any problems. But occasionally things can go wrong which may result in harm to you or a loved one. Claims are brought by people who have been injured through no fault of their own as a result of negligent NHS care and this is easily forgotten when looking at cost savings. Those who have been let down need specialist advice from a solicitor to help them get the compensation they are entitled to in law.

The government is looking at new ways of bringing down the costs of clinical negligence claims against the NHS – including through fixed costs. Is the best way of bringing down the cost of claims by introducing fixed costs? In my opinion, surely the best remedy is better training and adequate staffing. This requires investment but such an outlay is nothing on the scale of the cost of life-changing claims.

We have yet to see the detail of what is being proposed, but it would be deeply concerning if the Department of Health’s proposals led to those who have been harmed not having access to the specialist legal advice they need. It is possible, if costs are set too low, that solicitors will be forced to stop offering services in this area as a result of being unable to recover a fair level of legal costs. If this were to be the result, it would be wholly at odds with the NHSLA’s function to pay justified claims promptly and appropriately. It is also at odds with the values of the dedicated NHSLA staff and defendant solicitors, many of whom give considerable time to support the NHS, to learn from what has gone wrong and prevent injuries to other patients.  

In my opinion the NHS should hold their hands up when they have let a patient down and proceed to a swift settlement with the client. Costs can be reduced if the NHS will admit liability promptly when it's appropriate. However when the NHSLA denies liability it drives up costs especially if it ends up in Court for a judge to decide.

It is a fact that the clinical negligence bill is rising. Rather than restricting the amount solicitors get paid for vital work we do assisting harmed patients, the priority must be to invest in safer NHS care. The debate is likely to continue for a further few months before the government makes a decision. 

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