In response to the publication of the National Audit Office’s (NAO) Managing the costs of clinical negligence in trusts report, James Bell, clinical negligence partner says:
The long-awaited NAO report is extremely disappointing. The NAO have approached this issue with a narrow focus and seem to have air-brushed out of history the recommendations it made to the NHS to reduce clinical incidents in 2001, preferring instead to give the organisation a clean bill of health. The reality is that little or no progress has been made by the NHS to bring down the cost or number of claims.
The continued focus on claimant lawyers as a solution for all the NHS’s financial ills is misguided and disproportionate. Lawyers’ fees are already tightly controlled, capped and limited due to recent reforms; they have to be “reasonable and proportionate” before they are paid and the courts rightly already hold the power to reduce any bill found to be excessive.
Delays caused by trusts and NHS Resolution can be unrelenting and are hugely distressing to clients. Often legal bills are massively increased as a result of the NHS’s failure to admit fault at an early stage and the way it conducts cases.
While the narrative remains solely on claimant lawyers, nothing will change. The NAO has failed patients with this report.