Leading medical negligence lawyers warn against Government reforms which impact on patients harmed through negligence

In a hard hitting blog, two of the country’s leading medical negligence lawyers have warned of the impact for those injured through negligence in hospitals and other care settings.

Saying that it is all too easy for claimant clinical negligence lawyers to become ‘depressed and disillusioned’ given the ‘constant diet of trauma and tragedy’,Russell Levy and Nicola Wainwright from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day, point out that alleviating some of the stress, pain and anguish from their clients’ lives, can make it all worthwhile.

However, they warn that the lack of interest from Governments in providing access to justice and a level playing field for people who suffer due to medical negligence, has had a dramatic effect on their clients.

They cite the lack of legal aid, the hike in court issue fees and plans by the Government to impose a fixed costs regime as evidence of the Government geared more toward business and the insurance industry than those injured and suffering.

The blog which appeared originally in the Chambers Directory claims that the Government has published misleading statistics about the cost of dealing with medical negligence claims. According to the blog, in July 2014 the NHSLA published statistics that nearly £26 billion had been reserved to cover the costs of clinical negligence claims, whereas in fact, the actual cost of claims in 2013/2014 was just under £1.2 billion - just 1% of the NHS annual budget, rather than over a quarter.

They claim that lessons are not being learnt and safety is not improving with Health and Social Care Information Centre figures that showed nearly 175,000 complaints about NHS care in 2013-14; 19 NHS Trusts have been put in special measures by the CQC since the Keogh report of 2013; the halting by NICE in June 2015 of its work on safe staffing levels.

It concludes, saying that the truth is that clinical negligence claims are not brought to try to squeeze money out of the NHS. They are brought and won because some patients receive substandard, occasionally appalling, care.

There is a glimmer of hope in the new statutory enshrinement of the ‘Duty of Candour’ which they call a ‘step in the right direction’ but they warn it will be meaningless without a real commitment to providing proper access to justice for those who suffer clinical negligence.