So why is there such an increase? It is probably a combination of three factors:
1. Since the dismantling of the Legal Aid scheme and introduction of ‘no win no fee’ agreements more people can afford to employ a lawyer to investigate a medical mishap.
2. There was a rush of claims just before April 2013 when a change to the rules meant that the NHS no longer had to pay a success fee if the claim was successful. If clients were signed up after then, the success fee came out of their compensation.
3. There are many new entrants to the market (Solicitors with little experience of these claims) who are taking on cases and lodging claims that have not been properly investigated.
There was always going to be a blip for reasons ‘1’ and ‘2’ above. That will work its way through. However, the increase attributable to the new entrants is very unpredictable. They have entered the market because the Government has reduced their fee income from Road Traffic Accident work. They see medical claims as a way of replacing their lost income and keeping their paralegals employed.
We have been doing this type of work in the Teesside County Durham and North Yorkshire region for over 20 years and we have not seen the standard of medical practice drop dramatically over this period. Generally the level is good. Mistakes will always happen – it is human error, and no amount of form filling, privatisation or retraining will eradicate these lapses.
It’s the new entrants that everybody should be worried about:
- The injured patient; because they have put their case in the hands of a non-specialist
- The NHS; because they have to investigate claims that have not been properly risk assessed.
- The specialist medical lawyers; because the new entrants are giving us a bad name.
Hilton Armstrong – January 2015