Case law now allows a local authority to become part of the proceedings in a personal injury claim where they can show financial interest. This was established recently in the case of Bottomley v East Midlands Strategic Health Authority . This is very helpful as it gives Local Authorities some control in decisions that are made which will affect their funding of social care for people that are in receipt of damages awards.
The case of Bottomley confirms what was the already established position where Local Authorities were called to appear to give evidence on future funding issues usually in high value personal injury cases. However, the case does not clearly assist with the position in respect of PCTs. We still have cases where patients have had significant damages awards and the PCT are still funding their future care. This could be for legitimate reasons but PCTs are struggling to get information about the award as they have had no involvement with the proceedings.
Claimants are able to elect to claim for future health, either from the defendant Insurer or they can choose to elect to have NHS care in the future. If a claimant has established 100 per cent liability against a defendant Insurer it would be usual for them to elect private healthcare as opposed to NHS care. This is because the claimant would not be subject to the usual NHS restrictions on the services that would be funded. If this is the case there should be no problem as the claimant will no longer call on the services of the NHS. The problem usually comes when a claimant is unlikely to receive a 100 per cent award for damages and so the amount of money that the claimant is awarded cannot cover 100 per cent of their future care. In these cases it is likely that there will be continued reliance upon NHS provision and it would be very helpful if the NHS could become party to the proceedings in cases like this.
Although the case of Bottomley does not currently extend to allowing a PCT to become a party to proceedings in such situations it is a step in the right direction. There is certainly an argument that the NHS would have a strong legitimate financial interest in such a case. This is certainly an area to watch!