Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

NHS Lawyers Make Millions Fighting Victims of Medical Mistakes

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 16/07/2015

A Sunday Telegraph investigation reveals NHS Trusts have paid out more than £4.5bn in the past 5 years for medical mistakes. About a quarter was paid to law firms to cover legal costs. The paper produced a chart showing the amount paid to the top 10 law firms between April 2010 and the end of 2014.

The NHS spends billions defending negligent doctors rather than giving well deserved compensation

Best Left Unsaid?

What the Telegraph fails to say however is that 7 of the 10 law firms cited act on behalf of the NHS Trust i.e. they are Defendant law firms who fight claims brought by victims of medical blunders. The article also fails to address the fact that a substantial element of the overall costs relate not to lawyers fees but fees of experts and Court fees which would be substantially less if the NHSLA stopped fighting claims which should have been settled. Damages and costs are only paid to a victim who wins their case. It has been revealed that over the past 5 years the NHS has cost the Tax payer a staggering £1.125bn fighting valid claims by victims of medical blunders. A significant part of that sum was paid to NHS lawyers who unlike Claimant lawyers (who are only paid if a case is won) will be paid by the NHS either way. It is now clear that the blame for spiralling costs of claims brought by victims of medical blunders is a consequence of defence lawyers attempting to defend the indefensible at any cost.

The Blame Game

Instead of investigating why NHS defence lawyers continue to fight meritorious claims costing millions of pounds to the Tax payer in the process the Government chooses to blame the victims of medical blunders and the lawyers fighting for justice on their behalf. The Government’s response is to implement policies which will deny as many victims of medical blunders access to justice as possible and those policy measures have already included the withdrawal of Legal Aid (including Legal Aid for injured children) from the majority of medical negligence cases and a staggering increase in Court fees (now £10,000 for some claims!). It appears the Government is now looking at a simplistic suggestion of capping a victims costs to a proportion of the damages without even bothering to look at the root cause of the problem.

Siege Mentality

The siege mentality of the NHS to protect itself "at all cost" has to change. Instead of attacking victims of medical blunders and those fighting to obtain justice on their behalf the Government must turn its attention to NHS defence lawyers and ask why millions of pounds each year is being spent fighting claims which should have been settled. Recent reports have been nothing short of an insult to victims of medical negligence, often suffering devastating and life threatening injuries, and the lawyers who have fought so hard for justice on their behalf.

Access to Justice

The Governments proposed savings on clinical negligence claims will put access to justice beyond reach for many victims of medical negligence which appears to be the Governments true agenda. Capping victims costs to a proportion of their damages will not work whilst the NHS and its lawyers continue to fight claims which should be settled, often over many years. The Government must stop attacking victims of hospital blunders and those who fight for justice on their behalf and instead implement measures which will lead to the NHS being more honest, accept mistakes when made and make early admissions of liability when appropriate.

Only then will the spiralling costs of these claims be brought under control.

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