Patients and lawyers unite to offer ministers solutions to clinical negligence ‘fixed costs’ controversy

AvMA, the Law Society and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers have jointly agreed suggested terms of reference for a working party to reduce legal costs in clinical negligence cases below £25,000 in value.

Their proposal includes examining the causes of high costs and identifying all potential solutions. Any potential solution would be assessed for how it preserves access to justice and supports learning for patient safety.

Up to now, the Department of Health and Ministry of Justice have only discussed a working party to work on a ‘fixed costs’ approach which many believe would be detrimental to access to justice and hinder patient safety.

AvMA Chief Executive Peter Walsh chaired the group which drafted the suggested terms of reference. Speaking on behalf of AvMA, Mr Walsh said:

“The group has come up with a sensible and practical way forward which would avoid the dangers and controversy of imposing a crude fixed costs scheme, which would harm both access to justice and patient safety. Patients’ groups and lawyers are united in calling for a more thorough and balanced approach, examining the real causes of high costs and choosing from all potential solutions, which will reduce costs whilst preserving access to justice and supporting learning for patient safety.

“The proposals provide ministers with the opportunity of getting to the bottom of the real causes of high costs and coming up with constructive solutions which are acceptable to everyone. AvMA calls on the Department of Health and Ministry of Justice to accept these suggestions.”

On 4th December AvMA took part in a delegation of patients’ charities with concerns about the fixed costs proposals to a meeting arranged by Liz Kendall MP with Ministry of Justice minister Lord Keen and made the case for the suggested terms of reference to be adopted.