The NHS needs a change of attitude when it comes to claims if it wishes to tackle the cost of compensation for medical errors, according to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
The body has said that cutting needless injuries and adopting a professional and efficient approach to dealing with claims when things go wrong would be better for vulnerable patients and would mean major savings for the NHS.
Neil Sugarman, the vice-president of APIL, said that lawyers who acted for injured patients had adapted to recent legal reform but that by comparison, “the NHS approach to litigation is often ponderous, obstructive and wasteful”.
In response to a Government consultation which proposes to restrict the costs available to lawyers conducting claims for patients injured by the NHS, APIL has also argued that fixed fees should only be applied when the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) admits the NHS caused the injury. This would, it says, be an incentive to deal with claims quickly.
“The main problem here is that the NHS has all the facts of the case at its fingertips but often fails to admit it is liable for the injury,” said Sugarman. “So the injured person spends years trying to prove there was negligence, running up costs all the time, only for liability finally to be admitted at the 11th hour.
“It is a response born of an overly defensive attitude which is both old-fashioned and inefficient. What we need is a much quicker, fairer approach, and one which encourages the NHS to learn from its mistakes so the same injuries do not keep on recurring.”