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Clinical negligence reforms – on the hunt beyond the headlines

By Matthew Best, Senior Underwriting Manager

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 29 seconds)

This is the big one. The one that will have a significant impact on the great work we all do, in whatever capacity we work in… Jeremy Hunt’s mission to reform clinical negligence litigation. I’ve read through the Health and Social Care Committee transcript.

I’m sure we all have heard the latest developments from the most recent Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) meeting, chaired by Jeremy Hunt. The Committee is concerned by the fact that last year £2.2bn was paid out in new litigation claims; whilst over £8bn has been incurred for future claims.

One of the questions asked at the meeting was whether this is the best way to spend our very precious health resources. Well, clearly that answer is no, but the Committee might want to look at the behaviour of the NHSR in how they conduct litigation. So often a protocol letter of claim is sent and eventually a denial makes its way back. The case will rumble on, resulting in vast amounts of costs being incurred; only for an admission to be made within the trial window.

Approximately, 80% of claims that go to proceedings (where proceedings are issued) end up settling in favour of the claimant. That tells us there must have been opportunities for the NHS to recognise fault and that lessons need to be learned. So, perhaps the HSCC shouldn’t just delve into what is being spent/incurred; the question that really needs to be considered is ‘Why and how can this be improved?’

Nobody turns to litigation lightly. People want to know what has happened, rather than receiving one denial after the other. People find litigation, particularly in this country, a very stressful and costly process. What the government figures don’t show is just how many individuals do approach a lawyer. AvMA estimate less than 10% of the people that approach them seek legal advice; that is around 3,000 people a year.

The costs of implementation will be huge

Mr Hunt appears to have an initial attraction towards a Swedish style non-fault system; but what I do not think is appreciated is the realistic cost of implementing one. There appeared to be a conclusion that the non-adversarial nature of the Swedish system was responsible for significant improvements. That is not exactly what Professor Gustafson said – there are about 10.5m people in Sweden, compared to about 60m in England and Wales alone.

I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment, but the time to make our point is now. There are challenges for each side – for claimant lawyers this includes being responsible in their views and actions.

I’d like to hear everyone’s thoughts on these issues

To facilitate this, Temple will be hosting a number of events this year in which we can all have our say on the important subjects. I will be inviting special guests/speakers to come along; to register
your interest or share your thoughts please drop an email to me at matthew.best@temple-legal.co.uk or call 01483 577877.

Matthew Best

Senior Underwriting Manager
Read articles by Matthew Best

Matthew Best

Matt has an insurance background and joined Temple in July 2011 having worked for 4 years in a leading insurance company where he was dealing with personal injury work.

Matt’s experience allows him to undertake a key role in Temple’s ATE insurance personal injury and clinical negligence teams. He also participates in the assessments of delegated schemes that Temple provide with the objective of helping our customers make the most beneficial and appropriate use of ATE insurance.

He has started studying for this CII exams which he will sit in the near future, which he will then use to develop himself, further into the company in order to provide Temple’s customers with the excellent service they expect.

 

Read articles by Matthew Best