Legal fees in clinical negligence claims 'are becoming unsustainable'

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Jun 26, 2017
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It is estimated that the NHS could be spending £2.6 billion a year on claims by 2022

Natasha Alipour-Faridani/Getty Images

Insurers have called for a clampdown on lawyers’ fees in clinical negligence claims as part of proposals to curb rising costs and damages, which they claim are at the risk of becoming unsustainable.

A report released on Friday argued that health service spending on clinical negligence claims could reach £2.6 billion a year by 2022 if costs and damages are not reined in.

The Medical Protection Society published a list of proposals, including a limit on future care costs based on a tariff agreed by an expert group, the use of national average weekly income to calculate damages awarded for future loss of earnings, and fixed recoverable costs for claims up to £250,000.

The last point, said the society, would “stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees”. Its report claimed that legal costs accounted for 34 per cent of the £1.5 billion paid out in clinical negligence claims over the past year.

Emma Hallinan, the society’s director of claims, said that legal reform was needed in relation to clinical negligence claims. “We need a regime which achieves a balance between compensation that is reasonable, but also affordable,” she said.

However, lawyers argued that the fundamental issue around clinical negligence claims was doctor liability. Hilary Meredith, of the claimant law firm Hilary Meredith Solicitors, said: “It is accepted that risks can occur in surgery and these to the most part are explained in full – but mistakes over and above the risk of surgery are not acceptable.

“Without highlighting those mistakes in cases that come before the law courts, no changes will be made. It is up to the medical profession to ensure standards are kept and mistakes are reduced.”

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