The Mail on Sunday recently ran a front-page story about the cost of clinical negligence claims. The headline declared “vulture lawyers bleed the NHS for £418m”.

In response to the article, clinical negligence lawyer Alan Mendham wrote a guest post on the Learned Friend blog – run by barrister Nick Poole QC.

In it he questions whether the figure of £418m is truly accurate, and whether other factors might be to blame for the rising cost of clinical negligence claims.

The NHS Annual Report for 2015/2016 declares that the costs paid to Claimant lawyers rose from £292m to £418m in one year – representing an increase of £126m.

But as Alan points out, the figure includes both payments on closed cases and payments on account of costs in open cases (which is a pre-payment against costs in a case that will soon close).

He argues that payments on account of costs should not be included within the figure and must be excluded to find out how much costs have actually risen by.

The figures paid in closed claims last year was £279m, which have risen from £249m the previous year. Therefore the cost of claims has increased by £30m, not £126m.

Alan attributes this rise in costs to three different factors, none of which can be controlled by Claimant lawyers.

“The NHSLA are either receiving bad advice, or ignoring good advice”

The first is that in order to raise revenue the Government has increased court fees and the cost of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT).

The fee for issuing a claim form has gone up by 620% and the fee for commencing detailed assessment proceedings has increased by 2,700%. The cost of IPT has doubled.

Secondly, the NHS Litigation Authority (which manages claims made against the NHS) has allowed private sector organisations to join their scheme. These organisations are also generating claims that the NHSLA must deal with.

Lastly, the NHSLA’s policy appears to be to deny, defend and delay claims. This behaviour slows down the process, causing claims to continue for longer than they need to.

In fact, in claims where court proceedings are commenced, the Claimant will be awarded damages in 76% of cases.

The NHSLA would have been given opportunities to settle the claim at an earlier stage, but their behaviour means that costs are being driven up from an average of £20k (if settled before the issue of court proceedings) to £80k (if settled after issue).

Alan wrote that Claimant lawyers would like the NHSLA “to focus on why they settle so many cases late on. The NHSLA are either receiving bad advice, or ignoring good advice. If it addresses its own performance and reduces the number of cases resolved only after the issue of proceedings from its current 76%, significant costs savings can be made.”

Speak to a solicitor

If you would like to talk to a solicitor about making a medical negligence claim, please contact us at Glynns Solicitors.

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