Moves to curb the expensive system of recovering legal costs in clinical negligence claims are “a welcome first step”, according to the medical defence specialists MDDUS.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) plans to streamline how claimants’ legal costs are charged in lower value claims of up to £25,000.
It aims to do this through a system of fixed recoverable costs (FRC) that should reduce the bill to the NHS for clinical negligence claims, which last year stood at £2.2 billion.
MDDUS, which represents the professional interests of more than 54,000 healthcare professionals across the UK, has long campaigned for a more proportionate system of legal fees in clinical negligence cases.
In time, MDDUS wants to see the Government to take more ambitious action by implementing FRCs for cases up to a value of £100,000.
Chris Kenny, CEO of MDDUS, said: “We are strongly in favour of the introduction of a fixed recoverable costs scheme in lower value clinical negligence cases.
“It is a welcome first step towards creating a fairer system of dealing with claims when something goes wrong with aspects of the treatment and care people receive from the NHS and harm is done.
“We have long campaigned for a sensible and proportionate approach to the way claimants’ costs are charged, particularly in lower value claims.
“And, in time, we will want to see the FRC system apply in cases up to £100,000.
“The current system has had a disproportionate effect on the cost of indemnity for clinicians – especially dentists – where claims settle for less than £25,000 and legal costs then exceed the level of damages paid.”
While MDDUS is broadly supportive of the DHSC proposals, it stressed that it is important that reforms do not stall at this point.
Mr Kenny said: “It is very encouraging to see the DHSC including a post-implementation review of the FRC scheme.
“It is imperative that the scheme is reviewed at regular intervals, to ensure it is achieving its stated aims.
“We will also look to the DHSC to ensure the system is straightforward, workable and fair for claimants and defendants alike.
“The rising costs of clinical negligence claims are unsustainable, and we have been pushing government to take action to tackle this problem for many years.
“So, while this FRC scheme is a welcome first step forward, it is only a small part of the wider changes we consider are needed as part of an overall reform of the law of tort.”
The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) is a mutual organisation that protects the professional interests of more than 54,000 doctors and dentists across the United Kingdom, offering access to indemnity, support and legal advice.
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