'Don't Blame Us for Pounds 7m Fees in Medical Negligence Cases'

Article excerpt

Byline: BenSchofield

SOLICITORS should not be blamed for the pounds 7m paid out in legal fees to Merseyside and Cheshire lawyers last year, it was claimed last night.

Yesterday, the Daily Post revealed that more than a quarter of the pounds 25m paid out after hospital blunders went straight to solicitors.

But last night a lawyer hit back, saying NHS trusts themselves are to blame. Debra Foley, an associate at Kirwans, told LDP Legal she believes costs spiral because of a refusal by trusts to settle cases early.

She called for better oversight to determined which cases should be defended and which should be settled. In 2008/09, there were 294 claims recorded.

The highest pay-out of pounds 5.5m was made by Warrington and Halton Hospitals, followed by pounds 3.9m by Arrowe Park.

Health trusts do not pay the money themselves, but pay a premium to the NHS Litigation Authority, which then covers the cost of the claim.

Ms Foley said last night: "Blame for the pounds 7m which was paid out in clinical negligence legal fees in the North West should not be apportioned to the legal world.

"The high proportion of the claims payable in legal fees is due to the way that NHS Trusts routinely defend cases robustly only to settle later, often on the actual day of the court hearing, when the costs have spiralled.

" It is vital that systems are put into place to stop this happening. Millions of pounds could be saved by the introduction of a more efficient process of dealing with cases and increased scrutiny of which cases should be defended. …