An organisation supporting doctors in clinical negligence claims has said the government is not being bold enough on fixed costs.
A consultation on fixed costs for claims worth up to £25,000 finished earlier this year and a response is likely to be high on the ‘to-do’ list for any new government.
Campaigners for fixed costs say they were dismayed the Department of Health appeared to back down from the proposed limit of £250,000 included in the pre-consultation two years ago.
The Medical Protection Society, which supports 300,000 doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals, has called on ministers to be 'braver' about setting a higher limit after the election.
‘While we understand the argument for not capping legal costs for the most expensive and complex claims, we believe it is appropriate and viable to include claims up to £250,000,’ said Emma Hallinan, director of claims at the Medical Protection Society.
‘Disproportionate legal fees are still a significant issue for claims up to this value – setting the threshold at £25,000 would help, but the financial benefits to the NHS and the taxpayer would be greater if the threshold were set at a higher level.’
Hallinan said it was common for legal fees to exceed the damages involved, citing a recent case involving a delayed diagnosis which settled for £4,000, where legal costs of £35,263 were sought.
The idea that a defence organisation wants greater scope of fixed costs will come as no surprise, but the society's statement suggests lobbying from the sector will be stronger than ever after 8 June.
The next government will have to bring together the DoH consultation on fixed fees with Lord Justice Jackson’s work on the introduction of fixed fees across all civil claims.
Costs expert Professor Dominic Regan said last week that he expects Jackson’s timetable – he must report his findings on the effect of fixed costs by the end of July – to be unaffected by the election.
Regan said any proposals coming from Jackson will require consultation, but he expected implementation by October 2018.