Fixed costs ‘premature and ill-informed’

AvMA and eight other patients’ charities have signed an open letter calling on Jeremy Hunt to reconsider plans to impose fixed costs in clinical negligence. The letter, published in the Daily Telegraph, coincided with the close of the consultation on 2 May.

The letter describes the proposals as “premature; ill informed; and a threat both to access to justice and patient safety”.

In our response to the consultation, we explain in detail why the proposals should not go ahead in their current form. We are calling for an inclusive review, involving key stakeholders, to get to the bottom of why high legal costs are being incurred and how to avoid them. Simply imposing fixed costs will have dangerous unintended consequences.

In a recent development, we have received a report on costs in clinical negligence cases from Colin Campbell, a former costs judge at the Senior Courts Costs Office and a deputy at the Royal Courts of Justice. Mr Campbell casts more doubt on the reliability of the Department of Health’s assumptions behind its proposals and points out the impact of defendant behaviour in high costs being incurred.

Suzanne Shale

“There is widespread concern about these proposals, which should not be allowed to go ahead. This debate should be about more than just crude and dangerous ways of saving the Department of Health money in the short term and bashing lawyers.

“The proposals would harm patient safety as well as deny access to justice to many deserving victims of clinical negligence. We have offered a constructive alternative way forward in a better informed way and protecting patient safety and justice.”

Suzanne Shale, AvMA Chair of Trustees