Mediation To Save NHS Millions
It has emerged that the costs to the NHS of defending negligence and personal injury claims has skyrocketed to over £270 million pounds per year.
The NHS not only spends these huge sums on legal teams but it also having to pay out compensation of more than £500 million on top.
Despite this it has been claimed that lawyers are the main beneficiaries of the current system because the no-win, no-fee arrangement they are working under means they often get far more money out of a case than the clients they are representing.
The cost of the “winning team” of lawyers is often many times higher than the defence costs because of “success fees” in these fee arrangements.
One such case gives a vivid illustration. The family of a patient who died as a result of an infection while receiving treatment for cancer received £2,000 in damages. However, their solicitors were paid £61,268, and the cost to the NHS to defend the claim was £31,541 making a grand total of £92,809 in legal fees.
This is in fact a grotesque 46.4 times the amount the deceased’s family received in compensation.
Another case saw lawyers submit a bill to the NHS for £208,636 after they secured a client’s family a total of £5,000 compensation. The defence costs were £32,700. Although the winning solicitors later negotiated their whopping fee down to £145,000, this still represents nearly 36 times the amount of compensation spent on the legal fees.
MP Steve Barclay warned: “Lawyers… have an incentive to increase the length of cases to push up costs.”
The Ministry of Justice has claimed that such fees will be reduced after the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act reforms no-win, no fee rules next year to cap so-called “success fees”.
However, it has been claimed that NHS Trusts should require that claims are sent mediation before any such expensive litigation spirals out of control.
In fact statistics have shown that almost 90% of mediations produce a successful, agreed resolution of issues without the need for courts and, crucially without giving solicitors the opportunity to run up enormous bills.
A Senior Mediator would charge fees in the region of perhaps £2,500 per case, so the potential savings in costs to the NHS every year could clearly be the tens or even hundreds of millions of pounds.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman was quoted as saying: “Taxpayers expect that the system should compensate claimants properly and reward their lawyers appropriately, not liberally.”
It is to be hoped that sense will prevail and the NHS will decide that mediation is the best first resort – and if you’re forced to litigate and think mediation is a prudent first step then you can get the facts on mediation here