Health ministers intend to introduce fixed fees for clinical negligence cases by 1 October – despite not yet releasing a promised consultation on the issue.
Responding to a written parliamentary question, health minister Ben Gummer (pictured) confirmed the intended start date for fixed recoverable costs for claims, following the outcome of the public consultation.
The consultation will include consideration on the maximum value of claims that would be covered by the new regime and whether there should be any exemptions.
With the consultation likely to last at least six weeks, the starting date leaves ministers with a tight schedule to make changes.
In response to a separate question, Gummer said respondents to a pre-consultation exercise in August confirmed ‘no exact correlation’ between the value and complexity of clinical negligence claims.
The consultation, he said, will look at how behaviours can change to streamline and speed up the way in which clinical negligence claims can be processed. Gummer insisted the new regime will focus on the conduct of both claimants and defendants for a process that is ‘more resource-efficient and that incentivises the right behaviours by all parties’.
He added: ‘One objective of the proposed fixed recoverable cost regime is to improve the relationship between recoverable costs and damages paid, he said.
‘Looking at cases settled post Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 we have not noticed a significant impact on this relationship.’
Meanwhile, the Medical Defence Union, which defends doctors against clinical negligence claims, has insisted that GPs are not to blame for increasing numbers and costs of claims against them.
In written evidence about indemnity for the parliamentary health committee inquiry into primary care, the MDU admitted claims had risen by 20% following the introduction of LASPO.
Dr Michael Devlin, head of professional standards and liaison at the MDU, said the rise is a result of factors beyond GPs’ control.
‘The main reason is the legal changes to “no win no fee” arrangements which led to a surge in cases,’ he said.
‘Other factors include the worsening economic climate and a general environment that promotes litigation over resolving concerns through alternative routes.’
Devlin said the proof that more unmeritorious claims were being lodged was that the number of claims defended without settlement rose from 70% to 80% in 2015.
The MDU’s highest payment on behalf of a GP was £7.5m following missed diagnosis of a subarachnoid haemorrhage and in another case £6.5m (plus £300,000 costs) was paid for missed diagnosis of meningitis in a six-month-old infant.