In 2014 the NHS Litigation Authority, who deal with Clinical Negligence cases for the government, blamed lawyers for, what they called ‘record numbers of claims’. This has been a familiar theme over recent years. Government Departments and insurers all appear to have bought, rehearsed and learned to sing from the same hymn sheet! If they want to blame anyone they blame the lawyers.
The report observed that –
“We have also seen an increase in poorly investigated claims and claims where the care was clearly not negligent being brought by lawyers who do not specialise in clinical negligence work.”
Back in 2009 the target of the attack was the specialist lawyers who were accused or racking up massive charges –
I have said before that the culture of blaming lawyers is really just a politically safe way of blaming victims. Who would dare attack the family of a severely inured child for seeking justice –
But these attacks also disregard the massive contribution made by claimant lawyers in reducing the burden of dealing with weaker cases. I was a conference last year where a speaker on behalf of the NHS gave some interesting statistics. She said that 80 – 90% of initial approaches did not lead to a substantive claim. An initial approach is where a solicitor will intimate a possible claim and request records for investigation.
So let’s look at some real figures. My firm accepts about 30% of cases that come through the door. The rest are rejected after a strict screening process. So out of every 1000 inquiries 300 will result in us making an initial approach to the NHS. On the NHS statistics no more than 20% of those will result in a claim. In other words for every 1000 unhappy patients, the NHS will face 60 substantive claims. The NHS will never see the other 940 because of the efforts of the lawyers who are supposed to be the villains. In a world of no win no fee litigation, most of this work is unpaid.
On the basis of those figures I would suggest that the government should be dishing out medals rather than blame.
I would loved to hear the Minister of Justice of the Health Secretary publicly praise lawyers for their role in ensuring that the NHS only faces cases of genuine negligence.
It won’t happen but if we were only interested in political popularity we would never have gone into this job in the first place!