For several months now, there have been consultations and discussions in government about reforming the system for clinical negligence claims. The proposed reforms revolve around a system of fixed legal costs for solicitors dealing with the claims when the compensation in question is deemed to be low value with discussions largely focusing on claims valued at up to £25,000.
If these types of reforms go ahead though, it will sadly make it very difficult for many solicitors dealing with these types of claims to continue doing so where they fall within the fixed cost regime. Many legal organisations consulting with the government on this issue have stressed that these reforms will seriously limit a claimants’ ability to seek justice and compensation for the injuries that are caused as a result of negligent treatment.
And now, some of those would-be affected claimants have written an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, to oppose the proposed regime.
28 of the mothers impacted by the maternity scandal surrounding the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust have written to the minister to reiterate that the work of their solicitors was critical in opening up the NHS Trust and discovering the systemic failures in their care which led to the avoidable deaths of over 200 babies and mothers.
Under a fixed cost regime, much of this work may not have been possible and would have put claimants in a position where they have to seek justice for themselves as part of a system that can be complicated to navigate.
The major argument from the Government in favour of the reforms is to get control of the significantly increased spending dealing with NHS claims in very recent years. But one of the key reasons this has happened is because increasingly, patients are finding it difficult to engage in a transparent and effective conversation with doctors and hospitals about possible failings in their care or treatment. Many find that starting a claim and getting solicitors involved is the only way for them to feel heard and be taken seriously. In addition and more often, NHS Trusts are putting up walls and denying claims which they are later admitting or are being proven with evidence that solicitors have had to work hard to uncover. This culture hugely increases costs of litigation and lengthens an already difficult and emotionally gruelling process for claimants.
If enacted, these reforms could make it that much harder for claimants to achieve a fair outcome. This could lead to further increases on NHS spending for litigation rather than decreasing it as the reforms intend.
It also means that where you suspect you may have a claim for negligence, it has become particularly important that you approach solicitors who specialise in medical negligence claims as soon as possible who can assess and advise you on whether you have a claim and how best to proceed.
For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact us on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.