National firm Irwin Mitchell has insisted that weekend media reports about the fees it is earning from NHS clinical negligence cases were based on misleading and selective statistics.
The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday that the NHS paid Irwin Mitchell costs of £29m in clinical negligence cases in 2015/16. The paper went on to state that the firm secured £38.45m for victims in the last financial year, implying that it received 75p for every £1 secured in damages.
However head of specialist medical negligence Lisa Jordan - who was pictured in the newspaper holding a glass under the headline ‘no wonder she’s cracking open the bubbly’ - told the Gazette that the figures failed to give the full story.
‘Medical negligence cases are complex and require highly specialised legal experts but our costs are reasonable and fair and were agreed either by [the NHS Litigation Authority] themselves or the courts,’ she said.
‘The figures the NHSLA has provided do not however include all of our cases. Had the figures been less selective, they would have shown we won damages worth more than £150m for our clients last year alone.’
The figure for damages did not include ‘periodic payments’ made monthly or annually to ensure patients have the case they need, she said.
Jordan (pictured) said that the figure given for fees was misleading, given that it also includes paying for expert reports, counsel fees and other disbursements needed to prove the case.
The fees article is the latest in a long line of attacks from elements of the media against clinical negligence lawyers over costs.
Practitioners are still waiting for the opening of a consultation – first mooted over a year ago – to look into the possibility of fixed fees for claimant lawyers.
Jordan said she and her clients would prefer mistakes not to happen and lawyers are working with the NHSLA to highlight risk areas. If the government wanted to reduce costs, she added, it is starting in the wrong place.
‘Our cases highlight valuable lessons to be learned and much more could and should be done to reduce the number of avoidable errors,’ she said. ‘Secondly, the NHSLA can stop wasting taxpayers’ money dragging out and denying liability on cases it knows it cannot win, without any thought for the additional suffering it causes to the most important people in all of this – the innocent victims.’