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Monday, 10 October 2011

Legal Aid Savings - What Savings?

The Government is proposing major cuts in public funding.

Many arguments have been put forward about the devastating effect on access to justice for the most vulnerable. These arguments are well made and will certainly be repeated here in the coming months. But is is also a false economy. No more so than in the case of Clinical Negligence.

My firm recently handled a case for a woman who had developed, over seven days, a severe headache. She attended, on two occasions at Accident and Emergency, at her local hospital. On each occasion they failed to carry out appropriate investigations and in particular on the second occasion failed to do an X Ray. The client was negligently discharged.

She subsequently had a brain haemorrhage and was left with a major disability as a result.

The Claimant was eligible for public funding and Legal Aid enabled us to investigate the standard of care provided by the hospital and to obtain independent medical reports.

The Trust eventually admitted liability and the case was settled in the sum of £900,000.

We were contacted very close to the expiry of the limitation period. On the basis that Legal Aid was available we were able to issue protective proceedings and investigate.

The cost of the investigation alone was substantial and the Claimant would never have been in a financial position to pay for it. In reality she would probably have been deterred from claiming at all.

Because the claim succeeded all money paid out by way of Legal Aid was recouped. So the cost to the taxpayer was NIL.

So the question is not only - where is the justice? The question is also - where is the saving? It might cost the NHS less if it can no longer be held accountable. Is that the real agenda?

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