Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

The NHS and the Dark Side of Litigation

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 20/07/2015

Recent revelations that over the past 5 years the NHS and its lawyers have cost the taxpayer a staggering £1.125bn fighting valid claims by victims of medical blunders which should have been settled is no surprise to a Specialist Clinical Negligence Lawyer and Partner at Simpson Millar.

Both lawyers and psychologists are fully aware that making injured patients turn to lawsuits in order to obtain the Justice they deserve only contributes to a victims symptoms of anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as physical illness. What is a surprise is that rather than implementing policies to make the NHS more open and honest, to admit mistakes when made and make early admissions of liability the Government has decided to attack the very victims it should be protecting as well as the lawyers who have fought so hard for Justice on their behalf. This disgraceful behaviour on the part of our Government must stop.

A Lawyer Speaks Out

"As Claimant lawyers we see first-hand how a law suit takes its toll on a victims mental health and physical illness. The NHS and its lawyers continue to fight indefensible claims (seemingly with Government support) costing the taxpayer millions of pounds each year and then (again it seems with Government backing) blaming the victim for those costs when they lose! I have been saying for some time now that the spiralling costs of claims brought by victims of medical blunders is a consequence of Defence lawyers adopting a siege mentality to protect doctors "at all cost" by attempting to defend the indefensible. This siege mentality has created a dark side to litigation which is being ignored by the NHS, its defence lawyers and the Government which supports them. It is putting victims of medical blunders by the NHS under intolerable stress which is detrimental to both their mental health and physical wellbeing"

The Dark Side

"If a claim cannot be resolved quickly, which is rarely possible whilst NHS lawyers fight even the most indefensible claims, the victim is forced to pursue his or her claim into litigation, often taking a number of years, and can anticipate significant litigation- related stress. That stress is not only harming patients but also their families and loved ones as well."

"Often Terrified"

"Many of my clients report significant levels of stress and anxiety, often saying that they are "sick with worry" at the prospect of litigation and going to Court, an arena with which most are totally unfamiliar and often terrified. They become angry and frustrated when the NHS and its defence lawyers drag indefensible claims over months and often years and I see the effect that this has on the victim and their families day in day out."


"Many victims of medical blunders will have been left physically and mentally scarred, often for life. They will often have been diagnosed with a depressive illness, caused by the trauma of what they have been through and may suffer Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD). Each time they receive a letter or a telephone call from their lawyer will be another unhappy reminder of what they have suffered and whilst the NHS refuses to be open and honest and admit mistakes when made this can continue over a number of years. Clients often report being unable to sleep, suffering nightmares and intrusive thoughts after reimagining the traumatic event again and again over the life of their claim."

The Solution

"Quite simply, the sooner that claims can be resolved and the patient obtain closure the better for his or her mental health and physical wellbeing. This is a view shared not just by lawyers but also the majority of medical experts, in all disciplines, called upon to give evidence by both sides."

"Litigation stress extends far beyond the victim themselves and affects their family and loved ones as well. I have seen many victims' relationships with husbands, wives and partners as well as other family members and loved ones break down irretrievably, primarily due to litigation stress. Families are often completely overwhelmed, particularly if a case goes to trial."

Refusing to Listen

"The NHS, its lawyers and the Government is simply choosing to ignore this, concentrating instead solely on the victims costs, which are only paid if the victim wins their case, and then blaming the victim afterwards for bringing the claim in the first place, even though those costs are the result of a steadfast NHS Trust and its lawyers fighting a claim, often over many years, which should have been settled at an early stage, saving the taxpayer millions of pounds. How can the Government possibly be supporting this situation? Why is this government continuing to listen to the ill thought out and illogical arguments put forward by the NHS and its insurers instead of consulting closely with those representing the true victims, those who have fought so hard for justice on behalf of victims of medical negligence who, it seems to me, are the only ones offering a voice of reason, if only the Government will lift its head out of the sand and listen."

Access to Justice

"Instead of investigating why the NHS and its Defence lawyers continue to fight meritorious claims costing millions of pounds to the taxpayer and causing untold mental stress and harm to those who have been injured by medical blunders in the process the Government chooses to blame the victims of medical blunders and the lawyers fighting for justice on their behalf. The Governments response to the situation has been to implement policies which will deny as many victims of medical blunders access to Justice as possible and those 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!) which has already put access to justice beyond the reach for thousands of UK citizens. The public appear to be totally unaware of what is happening, in large part a consequence of the Governments manipulation of the media with stories, now proven to be myth, of "greedy" claimant lawyers and a compensation culture."

"The Governments new proposed savings on clinical negligence claims, instead of addressing the problem of NHS lawyers fighting indefensible claims will simply put access to justice beyond reach for many thousands of victims of medical negligence which appears to be the Governments true agenda. Capping victims cost 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"

"This Government must stop attacking those harmed by medical blunders and those who fight every day for Justice on their behalf and address the real issues. Why is the NHS and its lawyers fighting indefensible claims and forcing injured and vulnerable victims of medical negligence into litigation?"

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