Clinical Negligence Costs – firmly under the spotlight!

Clinical Negligence Costs – firmly under the spotlight!

The Telegraph newspaper has attempted to highlight the ever spiralling costs of the NHS dealing with clinical negligence costs claims in which it has alleged the top 20 NHS Trust have paid out a staggering £4.5 billion over the past 5 years.

The paper further elaborates by saying that almost one quarter of this sum relates to Solicitor’s costs and produces a chart showing as sum of £501.7m being the total amount paid which includes damages, to the top 10 law firms between April 2010 and the end of 2014.

What the Telegraph fails to address is that 7 of the 10 firms cited act on behalf of the NHS trust, i.e. that they are Defendant Firms, and that a substantial element of the overall costs relate to the costs of Experts and Court fees which would be substantially reduced if the NHSLA adopted a more realistic approach to claims and stopped attempting to defend the indefensible.

Clinical Negligence claims cannot be compared with neither motor claims nor Public Liability and Employers Liability claims where fixed costs are applied and only then if Liability is readily admitted and the matter resolves without the need for Court proceedings. Any fixed fees for Claimant’s costs would surely have to be counterbalanced with strict controls in procedure.

Many Clinical Negligence claims are life changing and are often complex in the nature of the injury suffered or the circumstances surrounding the cause of the injury. It is difficult to see how the introduction of fixed costs can be applied if the NHSLA fail to adopt a more honest approach to liability and as such avoid the extreme costs of Court proceedings.

It is too simplistic for the Government to suggest capping costs to a proportion of the damages without looking at the root of the problem. The inbuilt siege mentality of the NHS to protect itself ‘at all costs’ has to change, the call by Peter Walsh, Chief Executive of the Patients Safety Charity, Action against Medical Accidents, for the NHS to be more honest in addressing the issue of liability by an earlier admission would be the correct stating point; thereafter, a more detailed and diagnostic approach as to the level of costs could be could then be implemented.

So the bottom line is that the spotlight is now firmly on clinical negligence costs being too high and needing to be controlled. Call me a fool but I was under the impression that was the reason that Costs Budgets were introduced! Notwithstanding the ultimate irony that now exists is in the Courts strange decision in cancelling costs management budgets for the next three months to clear the backlog – watch this space would be the next bi-line.