NHS lawyers' fees soaring12th September 2008
A rise in 'no win, no fee' cases has seen a rise in the annual legal bill being faced by the NHS.
Fees being charged by solicitors acting for patients in NHS compensation claims have soared and the annual bill in England is now £90m.
This 122% increase in four years comes despite the number of cases remaining relatively stable.
The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) blames it on a rise in no win, no fee claims.
Some solicitors have doubled their hourly rates to £600, though say this is because case are becoming more complex.
NHSLA chief executive Steve Walker said: "Solicitors are not doing anything illegal, but it is pretty unattractive that these fees are being charged. There is no reason why they should be vastly different from what we pay our own legal teams, but they are."
He said solicitors were "cherry picking" the cases they were most likely to win.
About half of the cases the NHSLA sees now are brought by solicitors on a no win, no fee basis as opposed to under 20% in 2000.
Four years ago, the NHS paid out £40.9m to the solicitors of patients in costs under the clinical negligence scheme for trusts, but for 2007/08 that was £90.7m.
In comparison, the fees charged by the NHS's own lawyers was £29.3m in 2003/04, but had only risen by 48% to £43.3m last year.
John Pickering, head of personal injury at Irwin Mitchell, the biggest clinical negligence legal firm in the country, denied lawyers were playing the system.
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Title: NHS lawyers' fees soaring
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 8312
Date Added: 12th Sep 2008