In a move which is seen by some as the next step in ongoing efforts by the Government to fix fees for all types of lower-value litigation, the NHS Litigation Authority (‘NHSLA’) has drafted proposals for a fixed costs pilot scheme for clinical negligence cases where liability is admitted, as a result of which solicitors could find themselves receiving as little as £500 for running cases worth up to £25,000 in damages.
The intention, according to the NHSLA, is to ensure that claims against healthcare providers are resolved “fairly and promptly, and at a proportionate cost”. And while entry to the scheme would be voluntary, the indication is that there may be cost consequences if an eligible claim is not pursued via this system.
At present, the suggested fee is £500 for early admission with no negotiation, rising to £2,000 where expert advice is needed and the case has gone to arbitration. However, the proposal is still in its infancy and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (‘APIL’) has said that negotiations are “nowhere near a conclusion”.
In response to the NHSLA’s proposition, a spokesperson for the Law Society has said that whilst they support the principle of streamlining claims in the interest of resolving disputes as quickly and proportionately as possible, “the rise in costs of clinical negligence claims against the NHS is almost entirely explainable by increases in the number and severity of incidents. Unless there is a culture change in the NHS we fear that the rate of medical accidents caused by negligence may increase. Streamlining the claims process and introducing fixed costs will not reduce the cost to the NHS and taxpayer unless culture change reduces the frequency of medical accidents.”
Although the NHSLA’s proposed scheme is still in development, the clinical negligence sector is already in the process of adjusting to another serious overhaul, brought about as a result of the LASPO Act 2012. In response to these changes, many ATE insurers have released details of new clinical negligence delegated authority schemes which provide firms and their clients with cost-effective solutions for funding the claim. Such offering include products which limit the cover to the client’s own disbursements, as well as those which also cover the risk of adverse costs, should the claimant lose the benefit of QOCS. Finally, some schemes of this nature also include optional disbursement funding for those firms who don’t wish to carry the additional risk.
For more information on clinical negligence delegated authority schemes, contact one of our brokers.