by D.J. Webb
Dear all, no time for a long post, but I was amazed, at a time of cuts, to read that clinical negligence payments by the NHS rose by £10bn over the past five years to total £16.6bn! [See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9353443/Comment-The-spiralling-cost-of-no-win-no-fee-lawyers.html%5D This is not a small amount of money.
There are too many bottom feeders in this country who capitalise on state spending. Of course, those who have been disabled for life (severely disabled) should get big payments to enable them to pay for equipment and care.
But there are far too many trivial payments where no substantial harm has been received. The one highlighted in that link by Steve Barclay MP relates to an award to a claimant of £2,000. Only people’s whose lives have been severely damaged (e.g., people rendered unable to walk, and things like that, as a result of doctors’ negligence) should get payouts. Trivial injuries and infections should not lead to any payments – certainly not a £2,000 payment for effectively nothing – and, as the article points out, the lawyers got £93,000 for getting the claimant that £2,000. Fraud, or what?
Another article (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9352397/Lawyers-seizing-lions-share-of-payouts-in-NHS-negligence-cases.html) shows that the £2,000 payment was for the family of a dead patient, who picked up an infection in hospital while being treated for advanced-stage cancer. You read that right: the money did not go to the patient, but to the family, and the infection may not have been too severe, particularly as the person was dying from cancer anyway. What was the £2,000 for? To buy flowers for the funeral? The £93,000 for the lawyers was composed of £61,268 in legal fees for the patient’s family’s solicitors, and £31,541 in NHS legal team fees. Another example on that page was a £5,000 compensation award, leading to nearly £180,000 in legal bills.
In 2011, over £500m was paid out in damages, plus £196m for the legal costs of the patients, plus £61m for the legal costs of the NHS. And you thought your taxes were going on nurses and hospitals?
I am not sure it is right to abolish the “no win, no fee” system, which does allow access to justice, although the system has spiralled out of any connection with common sense. An idea I had before was of taxing all income derived from the public purse exceeding £50,000 at 100%. That idea was intended to target the civil servant mandarins, but a lawyer working in clinical negligence suits could find that he could not earn more than £50,000 in what ultimately derived from the public purse. Anything more would be taxed at 100%. Of course, personal taxation should go, but as a quick fix, we could eliminate some of the worst abuses in this way.