NHS Resolution ‘right’ to focus on mediation to address costs

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NHS Resolution’s suggestion that it could increase its focus on mediation as a means to resolve expensive clinical negligence claims in the future “certainly makes sense” if the NHS’s legal bill is going to be brought down, according to one lawyer.

Mediation topped NHS Resolution’s list of strategies for resolving clinical negligence claims more cost effectively going forward, as the NHS litigation service reported last week that its balance sheet provisions had risen to £77 billion.

Richard Lodge, clinical negligence partner at law firm Kingsley Napley, said: “Mediation is a new and welcome theme for NHS Resolution. It certainly makes sense to try to settle claims ahead of expensive court proceedings if the NHS legal bill is to be brought down.”

“Too often claimant lawyers have been cast as the reason for spiralling negligence payouts. From our side of the fence, however, more prudent management of cases would make an important difference in keeping a lid on costs, as well, of course, as the obvious point of avoiding mistakes to prevent claims in the first place.”

“The clinical negligence lawyer community should respond accordingly to this new emphasis from [NHS Resolution chief executive] Helen Vernon. It makes sense for all parties—victim clients and NHS Trusts—to resolve their differences early if possible, for financial and other reasons. We all have our part to play. Talk is one thing but more work needs to be done by all stakeholders to make mediation mainstream.”

Dr Christine Tomkins, chief executive of the Medical Defence Union, said of NHS’s spiralling clinical negligence costs: “These increases in claims payments are nothing to do with the quality of clinical care, which remains high. They are a result of a hostile legal climate. Awards of this size, paid from NHS funds, are damaging for everyone who uses the NHS and cannot be sustained if we want the NHS to survive.”

Emma Hallinan, director of claims policy and legal at the Medical Protection Society, urged swift progress on the Civil Liability Bill to reform the way the personal injury discount rate is set, which NHS Resolution chair Ian Dilks blamed in part for the rise in the cost of payouts.

Hallinan said: “Legal reform is required to strike a balance between compensation that is reasonable, but also affordable. The government is committed to publishing a strategy in September and this needs to be bold if we are going to get close to addressing these rising costs. Swift progress is also needed on the Civil Liability Bill to reform the way the discount rate is set.”

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk