No Win No Fee and Costs with Medical Negligence Claims
In a recent article in the UK Times, Dr Anthony Barton discussed the growing need for a more equitable and fair system for Medical Negligence claims involving the NHS which he claims are currently costing £1.6 billion and are mainly fuelled by No Win No Fee Agreements.
He states that;
“The total NHS spends for clinical negligence last year was £1.6 billion, and the figure is forecast to double by 2021. This is serious and unsustainable. These costs are driven partly by the success of no win, no fee agreements. Privatised access to justice is available to all, at no cost to the taxpayer, free at the point of need, according to the merits of the case. Claimants benefit also from one-way costs shifting — they do not risk paying health service costs if they lose. Change is inevitable: the government will act.”
The current figure quoted is enormous and he is right to say that the UK government will act, but what will they do? It is a question that will also be asked by many governments in the Western world. The costs of Medical negligence claims are spiralling out of control all over the world.
On the one hand the Medical profession needs to have a viable self-checking system to control both its excesses and its errors. Clearly the whole system of both how health care is organised in the hospitals, clinics, the GP surgeries etc and how the practitioners perform their interventions, operations, treatments etc. It is fair to say that there are problems as the Medical Negligence cases are dramatically on the increase. Is it the fault of the way those practitioners are educated and trained? Is it the fault of the way the various organisations are run? Is it the overworking of staff to the point that fatigue becomes a factor? Or is it a combination of all of those factors?
So, to what extent do No Win No Fee agreements play in the very high figure of costs of £1.6 billion in claims? There are some who say that access to the Law should be available to everyone regardless of how deep their pockets are. They think that No Win No Fee agreements are the way to go as they take the financial barrier out of Medical Negligence claims. There are others that say that No Win No Fee agreements just add fuel to the fire of Medical Negligence claims and that they should be taken out of the equation completely.
Is there another way to go in solving the ongoing problem of the rising cost of Medical negligence claims?
- A set free procedure to be available to all. This would do away with No Win No Fee agreements.
- A type of claims adjuster who investigates the medical negligence claim for its validity
- Set fees to be paid to the Medical Negligence solicitors from both sides. An No success fee/s allowed
- Set levels of damages with a cap on the amount awarded
Clearly the system in the UK and Ireland has to change, but how are people who have suffered a potential medical negligence claim supposed to access justice without No Win No Fee agreements?