Association of Personal Injury Lawyers
A not-for-profit organisation representing injured people

Blog: Quality counts

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Quality counts
Deborah Evans | 11 Mar 2016

We are faced with challenging reforms about the way medical negligence claims are handled. As yet, there is no consultation or impact assessment to shape the debate.

Whilst cost is generally the driving factor for reforms, APIL is keen to ensure that any cost cutting is done cautiously in order that the quality of work provided to the injured person is maintained. At the end of the day, the injured person still deserves to get the right settlement, not just any settlement.  

We have laid down five key principles for the future of medical negligence claims: that damages should not be reduced; that access to justice be maintained; that the quality of casework should not be undermined; that the changes should not apply retrospectively; and that the reforms should be even handed with improvements to both sides of the litigation process.

Many of these principles speak for themselves, but let’s think further about the importance of quality. Medical negligence claims were once eligible for legal aid, and the stringent quality requirements of the legal aid scheme meant that only experienced accredited practitioners could oversee the cases. Medical negligence claims are inherently complex. Proving a breach is not sufficient to win the case - it is necessary to prove causation as well, and as the injured person was already in need of medical care to begin with that brings its own challenges.

Now that legal aid has all but disappeared, a common complaint of the NHSLA is that the influx of inexperienced lawyers into the world of medical negligence claims is costing them dear. They argue that they see unmeritorious claims presented that experienced practitioners would have screened out (our experience is that over 90 per cent of cases are screened out by established firms) or that claims are presented badly and are not properly evidenced, driving up cost on both sides.

Reforms which encourage the specialist and deter the inexperienced solicitor will save money for the NHS and the NHSLA in the long run. We would encourage the department of health to look at building accreditation back into any scheme. Accreditation is not anti-competitive as practitioners can gain skills whilst working under the supervision of experts.

To ignore the value of accreditation will inevitably lead to additional defendant costs being incurred as a result of having to deal with incompetent or inexperienced claimant legal representatives or litigants in person. The lowest common denominator must not become the standard.

Past blog entries

Accident and negligence: what’s the difference and why does it matter? , 02 Aug 2021
Patient safety problems risk waning public confidence in the NHS , 20 May 2021
Consumers will not benefit from Do-it-Yourself whiplash reforms, 28 Jan 2021
Effects of a change in the discount rate: what happens when a review is expected? , 16 Dec 2020
Three per cent drop in premiums does not reflect massive insurer savings, 09 Nov 2020
What help is out there for families when someone is injured?, 02 Nov 2020
Blindly heading into the unknown for injured people?, 09 Dec 2019
Lessons in looking after one another , 18 Nov 2019

About this blog

Deborah Evans

I'm Deborah Evans, APIL's Chief Executive Officer. I shall be using this blog to keep you informed about campaigning and political work carried out by APIL.