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Government caps NHS clinical negligence legal costs

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15 February 2018

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A group of experts will work together to introduce a new cap on the amount of costs that lawyers can recover in clinical negligence cases.

It comes as the Government published today the responses to a consultationproposing to introduce fixed costs on lower value clinical negligence.

The cap will be applicable to cases up to £25,000 and is set to save the NHS up to £45m a year.

A group of experts will work together to introduce a new cap on the amount of costs that lawyers can recover in clinical negligence cases.

It comes as the Government published today the responses to a consultationproposing to introduce fixed costs on lower value clinical negligence.

The cap will be applicable to cases up to £25,000 and is set to save the NHS up to £45m a year.

The report showed that the majority of the respondents (65%) would have preferred another proposal regarding the threshold for inclusion, with the Department's preferred option being between £1,000 and up to £25,000.

The consultation document said: ‘A number of responses advocated an upper cap of up to £250,000 or indicated that the scheme could initially start with cases up to £25,000 and be extended later.’  

Around 37% of the £1.7bn NHS bill on clinical negligence costs in 2016/17 was spent to cover legal costs, according to the Medical Protection Society (MPS).

MPS Medical director Dr Rob Hendry said: ‘It is right that we question whether such costs are sustainable for the NHS, and whether this amount of NHS money should be spent on lawyer fees.

‘We had hoped to see a bolder decision on the threshold with cases up to the value of £250,000 included in a scheme, however a £25,000 threshold is a positive first step – one which we hope will be reviewed and possibly increased over time.

Today’s announcement comes after a coalition of organisations representing the NHS called on the secretary of state for justice to curb the costs of clinical negligence claims.

Reaction

Commenting on the announcement, chief executive of the NHS Confederation Niall Dickson said: ‘It must surely be fair to cap the amount lawyers can charge for their costs, and we welcome the decision to set up a group to work on this – we trust that the Government will act quickly on its recommendations.’ 

‘We also accept that the greatest prize is safe care – no health system can eliminate mistakes but the campaign to put safety at the heart of the NHS is critical. The irony is that excessive claims and a blame first approach undermine the open and learning culture which is so important for safe care.’

Although welcoming the Government’s decision to establish a working group, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) said that ‘a more decisive action is needed’.

MDU professional services director Dr Matthew Lee said: ‘The cost of litigation is becoming unaffordable for the medical profession and the NHS. The Government needs to take more decisive action.’

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