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It’s emerged that some personal injury claims solicitors are taking the NHS to the cleaners as a result of the latter being hauled over the compensation coals when it comes to medical blunders. And the subsequent pay-outs when found guilty of medical negligence in such big money-pursuing cases are said to be costing the already crisis-hit National Health Service the proverbial arm and a leg.
In the course of just one year it’s been found that lawyers who have taken NHS Trusts to task over a range of medical-related personal injury claims have trousered a staggering (not to mention, record-breaking) £246 million for their claimant-representing troubles.
The lid has been lifted of late by one of the UK’s leading tabloid newspapers, which has exposed a trend whereby the number of cases where legal costs have gone on to usurp the actual financial settlement figure paid-out to victims of clinical negligence in the past 5 years.
Realistically this now means that in over 60 individual personal injury cases (where the NHS is alleged to have been culpable for the harm or suffering of a patient/claimant under their care) per week, a significant number of lawyers pocket a higher sum of money (with hourly charges sometimes near to £800 per hour) than the injured party in whose best financial interests they are acting.
The news source only found this to be the case in the aftermath of a Freedom of Information request to the National Health Service’s Litigation Authority was granted; which in itself was set-up to deal with the constant stream of complaints received on the subject of alleged sub-standard hospital care, and which settles compensation claims and associated legal fees by way of taxpayer’s money.
According to the information released between 2014 and 2015 the NHSLA were responsible for paying out in relation to 3,141 cases of NHS negligence being proved against them, and where the final fiscal amount was higher for lawyers than it was in terms of former patient/claimant compensation.
In stark contrast, just 5 years earlier the volume of cases handled by the NHSLA was confirmed as 1,607.
This effectively equates to lawyers walking away with in the region of £30,000 for helping a client on whose behalf they are acting to win damages of around £10,000 as a ball-park figure, while the bigger picture is even more of a shock on learning that in total (and in direct relation to the personal injury claims firms which successfully challenged the NHS with regards to cases of perceived medical negligence) the lawyers managed to accrue a £246 million return on just over 10,000 recorded cases in the year 2014-2015.
Wronged patients/claimants in comparison were awarded a total of £425 million, with defence costs noted as being £62 million. The financial imparity doesn’t end there either, as further detective work undertaken by respected sources has uncovered even more episodes where lawyers have prospered above and beyond their call of duty.
Take for example one particular dispute whereby the NHSLA picked up a personal injury compensation tab for £80,000 by the lawyers representing a patient who for their part received a mere £1,000 for their ills; which was thankfully later reduced to £5,000.
In their defence a spokesperson for one team of solicitors countered that; “Costs could be significantly reduced if early apologies and admissions of negligence were made,” yet this cut little ice with a spokesperson speaking on behalf of the Taxpayers’ Alliance who on presented with this retort argued; “It’s hard-pressed families who shoulder the burden. Every penny in a lawyer’s pocket is a penny taken away from cancer drugs and nurses.”
Yet the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers echoed the resolute stance taken by one of its members cited in a high-profile case by stressing; “Legal costs reflect the work put in when the NHS is often obstructive.”
Indeed, such calls were mirrored by patient safety group, Action Against Medical Accidents, who fervently believe that; “The costs would be almost entirely avoided if the NHS admitted liability when they should have.”
It’s clear that the Department of Health are taking these concerns seriously, and are understandably worried about this seeming escalation in legal costs related to successful personal injury claims. With NHS Trusts’ budgets already stretched to breaking point, it’s acutely aware that something needs to be done to reverse this slide, with the NHSLA’s chief, Helen Vernon adding; “We support a move where costs are more proportionate to damages.”
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