Government ‘fixed fee’ plans to stop bereaved families achieving justice
Posted on August 1st 2017
The government’s plans to limit legal fees for Medical Negligence cases face protest from safety campaigners.
The government intends to impose a new fixed cap on the amount of legal fees that Medical Negligence Solicitors can charge on cases worth up to £25,000. Unfortunately, the new fees are unlikely to cover the amount it costs Solicitors to investigate the negligence. Essentially, this will stop Solicitors from being able to take on these cases, which may mean a decline in patient safety.
Going forward, this fee cap may reassure medical professionals that their fatal errors can be ‘swept under the rug.’ This is because bereaved families may sadly be unable to find a Solicitor who can help them to hold medical professionals accountable. Without this accountability, campaigners and Solicitors fear that the NHS may become more unsafe. This is worrying in light of the recent surge in baby deaths in hospitals across the UK.
The government press release describes cases under £25,000 as ‘minor’ – perhaps to defend their decision. However, this could not be further from the truth. Cases valued under £25,000 include:
- The stillbirth of babies due to medical negligence.
- The death of older patients with no dependents (anyone who relies on them financially) due to medical negligence.
Most people would not consider the death of a family member to be a ‘minor’ claim.
Without Solicitors fighting for them, many will never get the answers they deserve
Thousands of cases only come to Solicitors because the NHS refuses to admit fault until legal proceedings start. Of course, knowing why and how their family member died is of absolute importance to those who have lost loved ones. This is especially true in instances when their death was preventable.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says; “It’s important that when significant mistakes happen in the NHS, patients are able to have an open dialogue with a trust about what went wrong, receive reassurance of what is being learnt, and can discuss what form of recompense or redress may be appropriate. Legal action should only be one part of this process.”
However, for many taking legal action is the only way the NHS will admit liability and tell grieving families the truth. Being unable to claim will not mean that NHS Trusts will become more open about their negligence. On the contrary, we fear that grieving families, unable to get answers from defensive NHS Trusts will have no means to get the answers or justice they deserve.
The Chief Executive of the charity Action Against Medical Accidents rightly states that the changes would reinforce the current culture of ‘deny and defend’ in the NHS.
NHS Trusts are to blame for rising costs – not Solicitors
The Government press release states that the reason for the changes is to “prevent rising litigation costs within the NHS.” Yet NHS Trusts, and the NHS Insurers are primarily the ones responsible for rising litigation costs. In an article we wrote last year, we reported how the NHS drive up costs by dragging out cases and refusing to admit liability, even when a case is clear cut. You can read this article here.
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