The cost to the NHS of negligently injuring patients has been gradually increasing over recent years and it was recently announced that the Department of Health has had to find an extra £185 million. The need for this extra funding is no surprise. It is a symptom of poor planning which failed to budget properly for the true cost of wrongly injuring patients. In the words of the Health Minister the additional moneys are to make sure people ‘who are entitled to compensation receive it in a timely way’.
However in more ominous comments he said that the government’s proposals for litigation reform would help. What he means is that changes to the funding of claims – withdrawing Legal Aid and changing the arrangements for ‘no win no fee’ agreements - will make it more difficult for people ‘entitled to compensation’ to obtain access to justice.
To reduce the pay-outs for negligent mistakes by NHS doctors there are broadly 2 approaches possible. The first is to improve the system, learning from past mistakes to ensure fewer happen in the future. The second is to move the goalposts and reduce access to justice. The government believes its reforms will achieve the first, although that is debatable. There is for instance a risk of less accountability as services are fragmented, less understanding of what causes mistakes and therefore an increase in negligence. As regards the second, its reforms to funding will certainly prevent many innocent victims of unacceptable medical care obtaining justice in what is a gross abrogation of the government’s duty to its citizens. Like a house-seller who covers up mould with fresh wallpaper, it has found one sort of solution to the problem of medical negligence.
So whilst there is good news for claimants today things look somewhat bleaker for them in the future.Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.