Decision on lawyer fee caps in clinical negligence cases postponed

The government's delay in deciding whether to cap lawyer fees in clinical negligence cases is 'another step backwards' in the bid to cut GP indemnity costs, medico-legal experts have warned.

DH headquarters (Photo: Emma Platt)
DH headquarters (Photo: Emma Platt)

The government has delayed its decision on whether to implement caps on fixed recoverable costs in clinical negligence cases, claiming the formation of the new government in June caused the policy to be pushed back.

The decision was previously expected before parliament went into recess for summer last week. It added that results could now be expected ‘in due course’.

Medical defence organisation (MDO) the MDDUS warned the delay would cost doctors, patients and the taxpayer – and urged the government to implement a cap in cases of up to £250,000 as soon as possible.

The consultation to introduce the caps ended on 2 May 2017 – but only applied to cases up to £25,000, a figure MDOs say is too low to make a significant difference to escalating legal costs and indemnity.

Legal costs

MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny said: ‘Almost three years have passed since the government said they were going to take urgent steps to halt the runaway increase in claimant costs in medical negligence cases.

‘But words have not been matched by deeds and today’s non-announcement is another step backwards.

‘Patients, professionals and taxpayers alike are paying – and will continue to pay – the price for this wholly avoidable planning blight.

‘If the government is really serious about reducing the cost and stress burdens of unjustified litigation on the NHS, then it needs a joined-up approach on tort reform, the discount rate and the consequent need for GP reimbursement to account for increased indemnity costs.

‘A robust cap in cases of up to £250,000 in value is an essential part of that programme. There is no case for further delay.’

A DH spokeswoman told GPonline: ‘Ministers are currently considering their position with regards to proposals to introduce fixed recoverable costs in lower value clinical negligence cases. We hope to have an update for you shortly.’

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