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Stop lawyers creaming off money from NHS, say 75% of public

Three-quarters of the public think that the Government should do more to cut the amount of money lawyers are able to claim from the NHS in legal costs following clinical negligence cases, according to a new YouGov survey.

An overwhelming 82% of the 2,000 survey respondents do not agree that lawyers should receive more money in legal fees than the patient does in compensation, and 81% said they support ‘fixed costs’ for lawyers which would help to keep legal fees down.

At the beginning of the year the Government set out proposals for capping the amounts law firms can recover for costs related to low-value NHS negligence cases.

The Government highlighted one case where lawyers claimed £83,000 in legal costs but a patient was only awarded £1,000.

In total, the NHS paid out £1.5bn in clinical negligence costs in 2015/16, with legal costs accounting for 34% of that bill.

The consultation on the fixed recoverable costs scheme closed on 1 May. It proposes a fixed cap on the legal fees that can be charged for cases up to the value of £25,000 in England and Wales, which could result in £45m savings to the NHS a year.

However, the Medical Protection Society (MPS), which commissioned the survey, is calling on the Government to go further and include cases up to the value of £250,000.

Emma Hallinan, director of claims at MPS, said: ‘We fully support the introduction of mandatory fixed recoverable costs for claims of clinical negligence, and we understand the argument for not capping legal costs for the most expensive and complex claims, but we believe it is appropriate and viable to include claims up to £250,000.’

She highlighted a recent case involving a delayed diagnosis of a pituitary tumour which settled at £3,250 but legal costs of £72,320 were sought. That was reduced to £24,600 after a provisional assessment last summer, which found that the bill was disproportionate.

Ms Hallinan added: ‘This scheme presents an opportunity to create a more proportionate, fairer system while generating significant savings to the NHS – it is an opportunity that should not be wasted. We urge Government to listen to the strong views of the public and be bold when making its decision on the threshold.’

YouGov surveyed 2034 adults in Britain in February 2017, on behalf of the Medical Protection Society.

Readers' comments (3)

  • The public will say that right until the time Grabbit and Run & Co offer them a few grand for a claim of PTSD then like in every other interaction the public only thinks of themselves. They don't mean "our NHS" they mean "my NHS".

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  • Perhaps we should ask patients to take out insurance against medical complications in certain high risk situations like obstetrics and certain types of surgery and people of high net worth (who will have larger compensation claims)? The present system puts all the onus on doctors to pay for 'negligence' when often errors arise through a complex chain of events outside of a single doctors control such as low staffing ratios. Exposing the public to some of this risk would provide a financial incentive for reform where presently there is none.

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  • sure it would be good to get things cheaper but I don't agree with interfering with the market. Lawyers should be free to set their fees like anyone else and people should be free to offer less or to find a cheaper lawyer. They could give less in compensation though and stop paying out for things that were mistkes r oversights. If your bowel cancer diagnosis is delayed its not the doctors fault you died. Blame it on the bacon.

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