APIL has pressed the Government to remove all fatal cases from the forthcoming fixed costs scheme for lower-value clinical negligence claims.
“Any case in which a patient has died at the hands of the NHS needs more time and greater sensitivity than is afforded by the new regime,” said Guy Forster, executive committee member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
Stillbirths and newborn deaths are already excluded from the new scheme of fixed recoverable costs for claims valued at up to £25,000, which comes into effect on 1 April.
“Whilst we support the notion that cases involving baby loss need to be treated with the utmost care and sensitivity and therefore excluded from the regime, we do not understand why the same sensitivity is not extended to other tragic and avoidable deaths,” said Guy.
APIL contacted the Department of Health and Social Care (DoHSC) in October to raise the issue and followed up with a request for a meeting, but has not received a response.
“It makes no sense to us, for example, why the death of a toddler with meningitis might fall within the scope of fixed costs when a neonatal death is excluded. All bereavements must be treated with the same sensitivity and compassion,” said Guy
“It is within the Government’s power to act now, delay the reforms, and amend the rules.
“Time is running out. There is still an alarming lack of detail available on how the new regime will work. It is not known, for example, whether inquest costs will be recoverable. It is another reason, not that more are needed, to do the sensible and humane thing and simply pull all fatal cases from the scope of fixed recoverable costs,” he went on.
“The only reason fatal cases are ‘low-value’ is because the Government refuses to modernise the law and increase bereavement damages. The lack of concern for bereaved families is shameful.”