medical negligence

Cap on legal costs to save NHS over half a billion

The government have proposed a cap which will stop legal fees exceeding a certain level on lower value clinical negligence cases.

The legal fees will become more in line with the amount of compensation awarded, making it fair and proportionate to cases typically worth between £1,001 and £25,000.

The National Audit Office (NOA) has found that the cost of clinical negligence claims has increased over the past few years, predominantly due to the rising legal costs associated with the claims.

Currently, there is no limit to legal costs, irrespective of how much is being claimed for. On average legal costs are around double than what is received in compensation by patients in lower value claims.

Maria Caulfield, Minister for Patient Safety said: “I’m committed to making the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world. When harm does occur, it’s essential the NHS learns from what went wrong, and people who have been negligently harmed are entitled to claim compensation.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing some law firms profiting at the NHS’ expense through legal costs that far outweigh the actual compensation awarded to patients. This diverts resources from the NHS frontline as staff work hard to tackle the COVID-19 backlogs.

“Our proposals will cap legal costs for lower value claims to ensure they are fair and proportionate and ensure patients’ claims are resolved as swiftly as possible without reducing the compensation they deserve.”

As well as the new imposed cap, the government are looking to streamline the claims process to ensure they are dealt with and resolved quicker and in some cases elimination the need to go to court.

The bid to create the cap came from a report published in October 2019 by Sir Rupert Jackson which recommended that the Civil Justice Council (CJC) develop a ‘bespoke, streamlines system or fixed recoverable costs’.

graph showing number of medical negligence claims across the years

In 2006/07 medical negligence claims in England equated to £582 million, rising to £2.2 billion in 2020/21, a £433 million increase over the years.

The new cap proposal will apply to any claims relating to care provided by the NHS, non-profit and private healthcare providers in England and Wales.  

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