Ministers Could Rule out Legal Aid for Cases of Medical Negligence Cases

Article excerpt

PATIENTS WHO have been injured by medical blunders could be denied the right to bring their claims to court under a government review of the soaring cost of litigation against the NHS.

In a move that would save the Treasury millions of pounds each year, ministers are exploring proposals to replace legal aid - which is used in 70 per cent of negligence cases - with "no win, no fee" agreements between patients and their solicitors. A letter from the Lord Chancellor's Department to a doctor complaining about the cost of compensation confirms that research is under way to establish where the "burden of risk might be shifted from the public purse to private practitioners". The NHS is facing a record pounds 4.4bn bill in outstanding negligence claims.

The letter says ministers are also looking at "non-financial remedies in cases of clinical negligence". It adds: "This Department and the Legal Services Commission are working closely with the Department of Health to ensure a common approach to the funding of claims and to reduce public expenditure on clinical negligence cases. …