NHS care hit by damages claims30th June 2009
The BBC says it has been informed that the cost of increasing charges from "no win, no fee" solicitors is affecting NHS treatment.
The head of the NHS Litigation Authority Steve Walker told a Radio 4 programme that payment for legal fees and compensation had to be covered by health service funds.
This year the NHS has reserved £787 million to meet the rising cost of claims.
In 2008 solicitors acting for clients making claims against the health service cost the NHS more than £91 million - triple the amount charged by solicitors representing the NHS.
Mr Walker said: "The present system means there is too great a drain on public resources largely for the benefit of... claimant solicitors...there is only one source of money for the NHS....we have to pay claims from money that would be spent on patient care."
Solicitors are able to claim very high legal fees from the NHS when a patient is awarded damages.
Information reviewed by the BBC revealed that a patient was given £5,000 in compensation by the NHS, but their solicitor charged legal fees of £56,000. Another case awarded a patient £7,000, while their solicitor was paid more than £77,000.
Medical negligence lawyer Russell Levy said legal fees mounted up because the NHS took a long time to settle cases.
"They hope the harder they make it and the more they discourage people, they will go away," he said.
At present the health service is looking at over 6,000 compensation claims for medical negligence. Around 50% of these cases are brought by "no win, no fee" firms representing patients.
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Title: NHS care hit by damages claims
Author: Jess Laurence
Article Id: 11953
Date Added: 30th Jun 2009