Proposals to cap legal costs in clinical negligence

Published: 29 Jun 2015

Categories: Latest

As part of a raft of cost-saving measures, the Department of Health proposes to cap legal costs in clinical negligence cases where the NHS has been found to have been negligent and caused harm. The announcement was made yesterday via the media without any prior discussion with AvMA and other key stakeholders.

AvMA awaits to see details of the proposal but believes that the rationale given is misguided and the proposal would deny many injured patients and families access to justice.   Judges already can and do limit damages if they are found to be unjustified. Often costs escalate because the NHS unreasonably denies liability or delays settlement of claims. The proposal to base the legal costs cap on a proportion of the damages awarded would make some claims unviable. The damages awarded to people with no income or dependants (such as older people, or in still birth or child death cases) is usually very small but can be just as complex and costly to investigate as any other case.

AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh said: “We are disappointed that no discussion and very little thought seemingly went into these proposals and the effects on access to justice have been ignored. The Department of Health and Ministry of Justice would do better to address the unreasonable denials and delays in settling claims and improving patient safety. 100% of these costs not to mention the far greater human cost would be avoided if the negligent treatment was avoided in the first place.”