Author: Paul Moloney, Industrial Relations Manager
The cost to the NHS of the legal fees paid to representatives of patients seeking compensation was raised by the SoR at this year’s TUC meeting in Brighton.
Our motion called for the TUC to work with other interested parties to see if there is a better way for patients to get compensation without the need to incur legal fees.
We were therefore somewhat surprised to find the Mail on Sunday picking up the issue on 9 October with the headline “Vulture Lawyers Bleed the NHS for £418m”.
Maybe not quite how we would have put it, but it was their lead story on Sunday and was followed up with a comment piece in which they called for a review of how the no win no fee culture has lead to a significant increase in the cost of litigation for the NHS, money which should of course be spent on patient care.
However, The Mail on Sunday article only concentrated on the fees “earned” by legal firms.
It did not look at the equally important points raised by us in our motion that because patients have no alternative than the adversarial legal process, this makes it much more difficult for an honest appraisal of what has gone wrong and thus for lessons to be learned.
With the new duty of candour required by the HCPC, we are calling for a wide ranging debate to look at the alternatives.
Alternatives that could be better for individual patients who deserve to be compensated and all patients if lessons can be learned when things go wrong and the culture change identified in the Frances report happens.
We have responded to the Mail on Sunday article explaining that fees is just part of the problem and it remains to be seen if they print our response.
Perhaps though the TUC can capitalise on the interest shown and lead a more sophisticated debate about alternative ways of providing compensation that don’t waste money but allow openness and lessons to be learned and thus improve patient safety.
Surely a win win situation for all concerned.