Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA), the Law Society and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers have jointly agreed suggested terms of reference for a working party to reduce legal costs in clinical negligence cases below £25,000 in value.
Their proposal includes examining the causes of high costs and identifying all potential solutions. Any potential solution would be assessed for how it preserves access to justice and supports learning for patient safety.
Up to now, the Department of Health and Ministry of Justice have only discussed a working party to work on a ‘fixed costs’ approach, which many believe would be detrimental to access to justice and hinder patient safety.
The terms of reference for AvMA’s working party include identifying and addressing the main drivers of costs in clinical negligence claims up to £25,000 in value, as well as establishing different ways of reducing costs and maximising opportunities for early settlement.
The working party would also consider how consider how learning from the incidents that give rise to claims can be supported as part of and at the conclusion of the claims process for the purpose of improving patient safety within the NHS.
AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh chaired the group that drafted the suggested terms of reference. Speaking on behalf of AvMA, he said: “The group has come up with a sensible and practical way forward which would avoid the dangers and controversy of imposing a crude fixed costs scheme, which would harm both access to justice and patient safety.”
“Patients’ groups and lawyers are united in calling for a more thorough and balanced approach, examining the real causes of high costs and choosing from all potential solutions, which will reduce costs whilst preserving access to justice and supporting learning for patient safety.”
“The proposals provide ministers with the opportunity of getting to the bottom of the real causes of high costs and coming up with constructive solutions which are acceptable to everyone. AvMA calls on the Department of Health and Ministry of Justice to accept these suggestions.”