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Costs and clinical negligence: a voice of reason?

It is heartening to read the article by Catherine Dixon in the Law Society Gazette  criticising the Department of Health’s proposal to cap the costs of clinical negligence claims.

Catherine Dixon is now Chief Executive of the Law Society but as the former Chief Executive of the NHSLA she is better qualified than most to comment on the adverse implications of the proposals, particularly on patient safety and the trust between healthcare provider and patient.

It is all too easy to attack lawyers and their “excessive costs” and to misrepresent some of the available statistics, but the fact remains that clinical negligence cases are brought when patients have, or suspect they have, been damaged as a result of substandard care. The best and most effective way of tackling clinical negligence claims is surely to prevent avoidable injury through driving up standards and improving training, not by denying access to justice to those who need it.

There has been a recent spate of dramatic media reports about lawyers’ costs and the rising bill for the NHS but if anybody is really interested in a succinct and balanced assessment of some of the issues they could do a lot worse than to listen to and heed Catherine Dixon’s voice of reason.