Posted on 2 Jan 2014
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Medical Lawyers Speak out Over Claims Data

Soaring claims costs in Devon and Cornwall require a closer look

The Western Morning News has released an article on the significant increases in NHS compensation pay-outs from hospital trusts in Devon and Cornwall, with the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital seeing a 14-fold increase in 4 years.

Michelmores' Oliver Thorne believes that the sums paid out are only part of the picture, however.

'Of course these figures are alarming, and the financial implications for the NHS in the region can't be ignored,' he says.

'On the other hand, there's no smoke without fire, and this often gets missed when reporting this kind of information. I agree that the NHS complaints service is substandard - often patients come to us distraught and exasperated at the way their issue was dealt with. However, a better complaints service alone won't provide the redress many injured patients require.

'The point that often gets missed is that, if you're an injured patient, it's likely that you'll need your compensation to pay for treatments or medical equipment which would otherwise have to be provided by your local authority - more state spending. Negligence law isn't about rewarding claimants; it's a question of putting the victim back in the position they would have been in had the negligence not occurred, insofar as this is possible.

'NHS trusts are advised by very competent defence lawyers, and they certainly don't just roll over when faced with claims. If there has been an increase in claims pay-outs, you need to look at the whole picture - the kinds of claim, the extent of the negligence and whether changes were made to ensure patient safety.'

No-win no-fee situation

Recent changes in the litigation rules also mean that what were previously known as 'no-win, no-fee' agreements have changed considerably, with many costs no longer being recoverable from the defendant. This, Oliver hopes, will not deter injured patients from seeking justice.

'We support a functioning, economically healthy NHS, where there is a bond of trust between patients and practitioners and patient safety is paramount. If we see a fall in the claims figures, we hope it comes as a result of better standards, rather than patients being dissuaded from asserting their legal rights. We continue to promote the ideal of best practice in healthcare, and hope that the Devon and Cornwall NHS trusts respond to their high claims figures positively.'

You can read Oliver's comments on interpretation of mortality data at Derriford hospital here.

If you would like to discuss a claim relating to any of the issues discussed above, you can contact us for free, for discreet, impartial advice.