The latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) speak for themselves (‘Compensation culture? Stats reveal claims numbers in freefall’, 24 April). Yet the message is not getting through to the public that claims are falling, not soaring.
Recently, during a Radio 5 Live debate on the plight of Alfie Evans, listeners were subjected to more inaccuracies about NHS finances and the role that claims supposedly play. This time it was courtesy of the Medical Protection Society – described as a not-for-profit legal support group for doctors, not the quasi-insurance company that clinical negligence lawyers know it to be. The Society referred to the NHS’s outstanding liabilities of £50bn and talked about how we are living in an increasingly litigious society.
Yet the £50bn figure – which is actually £65bn but that is not the point – refers to future liabilities that the NHS might face over a period of say, up to 80 years, not what it has to pay out now. Further, the CRU stats show the Society claim about being an increasingly litigious society to be inaccurate. Naturally, all of this went unchecked by the journalist and the interview ranged over various subjects so that the mob outside Alder Hey was somehow conflated with genuine claimants who have suffered an injury.
The British public are routinely subjected to narrow and populist arguments about NHS finances, instead of a proper examination of the issues. It is clear that national debate about NHS finances is not going away and so perhaps it is time for the Law Society to spearhead a major campaign to tackle the widespread myths around this most emotive issue.
James Bell, clinical negligence partner, Hodge Jones & Allen, London NW1