A clinical negligence firm named by a newspaper as an ‘ambulance chaser’ inflating charges against the NHS has dismissed the idea of a cap on claimant costs.
James Maxey, managing partner at Manchester firm Express Solicitors, said the idea that claimant firms were front-loading claims with expensive experts and investigations was ‘preposterous’.
Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority, told the Sunday Telegraph her organisation is calling for the government to cap the level of costs for lawyers representing patients.
Dixon said some lawyers were ‘trying to maximise their profit’ with costs ‘out of kilter’ with the level of damages and defence costs.
Maxey said the article made no mention of what proportion of costs could have been avoided if the litigation authority had dealt with cases more efficiently.
He said: ‘The NHS Litigation Authority is worse than most insurance companies at replying to requests for information for even the simplest of disclosure. It is often the case that requests have to be chased up numerous times.
‘Replies to correspondence can take months. Telephone calls frequently go unreturned. All of these delays impact upon the progress of the case, and can lead to further costs being incurred if it becomes necessary to issue proceedings.’
He added that expert witnesses are necessary to advise lawyers if the care to their client was acceptable, while investigations would be much cheaper if the NHS admitted liability earlier.
Express Solicitors was quoted as having claimed £1.4m in costs for 30 cases in 2012/13. This was reduced after negotiation to £779,000.
According to figures supplied by the NHSLA, national firm Irwin Mitchell claimed considerably more in costs than any other firm, being paid £18.9m from 522 claims.
Leigh Day, Pannone, Gadsby Wicks and Freeth Cartwright all claimed more than £3m costs from the NHS during the year.