The Department of Health has announced its roster of defendant panel firms that will share a £400m contract for the NHS in England over the next four years.

After a tender process lasting several months, successful bidders were informed this morning.

Bevan Brittan, Browne Jacobson, Capsticks, Clyde & Co, DAC Beachcroft, Hempsons, Hill Dickinson, Kennedys, Ward Hadaway and Weightmans – along with new entrant Berrymans Lace Mawer – have been selected to provide advice on clinical liability.

This is thought to be worth a total of £320m over the period of the contract.

Berrymans Lace Mawer, Browne Jacobson, DAC Beachcroft, Hill Dickinson, Kennedys and Weightmans will advise on non-clinical liability.

The level of work for panel firms shows no sign of easing, with claims against the NHS up 18% in the past year and speculation that personal injury lawyers may move into the clinical negligence sector.

Hourly rates are fixed for the panel members and the firms are expected to provide support for 15 Department of Health organisations.

Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority, said: ‘We’re delighted to have secured what I am confident will be excellent-quality legal services for the NHS at a price which ensures value for money.’

For regulatory, health and disciplinary matters, the panel includes Browne Jacobson, Capsticks, DAC Beachcroft, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Hempsons, Hill Dickinson, Kennedys, Mills & Reeve, Morgan Cole, Ward Hadaway and Weightmans.

As well as selection to the panel, Kennedys is also celebrating the conclusion of a merger with specialist aviation firm Gates & Partners.

Kennedys Aviation will comprise more than 60 people, including 20 partners, and will advise the airline sector on corporate and commercial, regulatory and competition, employment, finance, insurance and dispute resolution.

The merger will take Kennedys’ partner count to 176 with a total of more than 1,120 staff worldwide.