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From Government, Legal and Policy - Government

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Blaming Compensation Culture for Rise in NHS Medical Negligence Claims Bill 'Hides Government's Real Agenda'

Thu, 9 Feb 2012 05:50:15 EST

Changes made by the government to the way medical negligence compensation claims are funded will have serious repercussions on genuine victims of negligence, according to one law firm.

The Whole of Government Accounts included a contingency sum of £15.7 billion for all potential outstanding medical negligence claims.  While this sum had already been set out in the NHSLA annual reports, it has come as a surprise to MPs and some sections of the media.  The sum has been equated to around one-seventh of the annual NHS budget.

The reality, according to Darbys Medical Negligence Solicitors, is that this amount will not be paid to victims of medical mistakes although the victims are entitled to the money.  The reason for this is that most patients who are negligently injured have no idea they have been failed by their doctors and do not seek legal advice. 

The government has sought in part to blame this escalating figure on a compensation culture, with lawyers charging defendants more for their services because they work on a no win, no fee basis, and more people being encouraged to make a claim than ever before.

However, Richard Money-Kyrle at the specialist law firm, believes the government is simply trying to hide its "real agenda of reducing the cost of NHS negligence by reducing access to justice behind unjustified criticisms of the way in which civil litigation claims are currently funded".

He suggests that the idea of a thriving UK 'compensation culture' is a myth.   Taking  the analysis by the Department of Health in 2000 that there are 850,000 adverse events within the NHS each year, 1 in 10 of admissions, and comparing that to the 8,500 claims started in 2010/11 indicates that only a very small percentage of patients complain or sue.

Furthermore, Mr Money-Kyrle says, contrary to popular opinion, not enough is being done to encourage patients whose treating hospitals know they have been negligently injured to try and obtain financial help, especially since the Department of Health is on record as saying genuine victims of negligence are entitled to proper compensation.

As a result of the government's view of compensation claims, changes to the funding of civil medical negligence claims have been proposed, designed to save money by cutting legal aid for, amongst others, babies who have suffered brain damage due to medical negligence.

Many in the legal sector believe the proposed changes will prevent solicitors from being able to investigate complex and important claims, and will mean a significant number of claimants will simply not be able to have their potential claims investigated.

Mr Money-Kyrle says: "The proposals will require victims of medical negligence to pay towards the costs of investigating and bringing their claims when hardly any and certainly those most vulnerable cannot afford to do so - a notion that seems only to prevent innocent claimants recovering the compensation they deserve. The principle that the polluter pays is being thrown away. 

"The government should concentrate on reducing the incidence of medical negligence whilst at the same time ensuring those injured are informed of the mistakes made and are fully compensated to reduce in as far as money can the impact of injury on their lives."

Darbys Solicitors specialises in medical negligence claims and has years of experience helping clients recover damages for their suffering. For more information about making a medical negligence claim, visit the Darbys Solicitors website: 

Source: WebWire

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