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.
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
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.
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.