A shake up of attitudes in the NHS is the answer to Government concerns about the cost of compensation claims for medical blunders, say lawyers.
Cutting needless injuries and adopting a professional and efficient approach to dealing with claims when things do go wrong would be better for vulnerable patients and would mean major savings for the NHS, according to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
“Lawyers who act for injured patients have had to adapt to deal with recent legal reform,” said Neil Sugarman, vice-president of APIL. “By comparison, the NHS approach to litigation is often ponderous, obstructive and wasteful.”
He was speaking in response to a Government consultation which proposes to restrict the costs available to lawyers conducting claims for patients injured by the NHS. In its formal response, the association argues fixed fees should only be applied when the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) admits the NHS caused the injury. This would be an incentive to deal with claims quickly.
“The main problem here is that the NHS has all the facts of the case at its fingertips but often fails to admit it is liable for the injury,” said Mr Sugarman. “So the injured person spends years trying to prove there was negligence, running up costs all the time, only for liability finally to be admitted at the 11th hour.
“It is a response born of an overly defensive attitude which is both old-fashioned and inefficient. What we need is a much quicker, fairer approach, and one which encourages the NHS to learn from its mistakes so the same injuries do not keep on recurring.”