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Government delays fixed clinical negligence costs plan until October

Government delays fixed clinical negligence costs plan until October

The Government has delayed its plans to introduce fixed recoverable costs and a new process for some clinical negligence claims.

It is planning to introduce a system of fixed recoverable costs (FRC) in ‘lower value’ clinical negligence claims (valued at £1,001 to £25,000), following a consultation.

The new scheme, which was supposed to be implemented from last month, would reduce legal costs reimbursed by public defendants, estimated to create £1bn in savings for NHS hospitals in England, and £1.3bn for other healthcare providers in the public and private sector, £2.3bn in total.

Now, following a further consultation, the Government said it is also going ahead with proposals for disbursements – legal costs incurred over and above claimants’ legal costs such as court fees – to be included within the fixed costs.

But due to the ‘complexity’ of the reforms, the scheme will be implemented in October instead.

In the consultation outcome, published this week, the Government said: ‘The intention set out in our government response to the 2022 consultation was that the new Lower Damages Clinical Negligence Fixed Recoverable Cost (LDFRC) scheme would be implemented in April 2024.

‘However, due to the complexity of the reforms, the time needed for the Civil Procedure Rule Committee to fully scrutinise the proposals and to allow sufficient notice to be given to the sector to prepare for these changes, our intention now is that the changes will be implemented in October 2024.’

The scheme will place limits on how much lawyers receive from lower damages clinical negligence claims and will save ‘an estimated £500m over the next decade which could be spent on patient care’.

The changes will also ‘better support victims and preserve access to justice’, according to the Government.

However, medical protection experts told Pulse that to achieve the maximum benefit, a FRC scheme should be applied in claims up to the value of £250,000.

NHS Resolution estimated that Covid-related clinical negligence claims alone would amount to £885m, £44m which could relate to general practice.

It also said that the number of clinical negligence claims made against GPs in England was ‘very low’ in the first year of the state-backed indemnity scheme.