Dan Jarvis – 2015 Parliamentary Question to the Department of Health

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Dan Jarvis on 2015-11-16.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of fixing recoverable costs in medical negligence cases to a maximum of £250,000 on a claimant’s ability to pursue a case.

Ben Gummer

Over the past 10 years claimant legal costs as a percentage of damages paid by the National Health Service have increased from 32% to 52%. We believe that claimant legal costs are disproportionate to the value of the damages paid, sometimes representing up to 299% for lower value claims, and disproportionate to the defendant costs. Ultimately this all comes out money for front line services. The proposal for fixed recoverable cost in lower value clinical negligence claims was suggested by Lord Justice Jackson in his report Reform of Civil Litigation Funding and Costs in England and Wales.

The Department is working closely with partners and interested parties to develop a proposal to introduce fixed recoverable costs for clinical negligence claims. The Department’s proposal in the consultation is a maximum threshold level of £250,000, based on Lord Justice Jackson’s original proposal and with a view to covering at least 80% of all claims. We welcome views on the proposal from all sectors. The results of a pre-consultation exercise with a number of key stakeholders, including representatives of claimant lawyers, and the consultation documentation, including the Impact Assessment, will be published early 2016 subject to relevant Committee clearances.

The level of potential savings will ultimately depend upon the final maximum threshold level proposed. By making legal costs proportionate to the damages paid we would hope to save circa £80 million per annum. The Department is also working with various clinical groups looking at how the current level of incidents can be reduced. In terms of maternity our target to reduce avoidable harm by 50% and save 6,000 lives.

The Department sees the fixed recoverable cost work as part of an overall strategic approach aimed at improving patient safety, improving customer care and improving litigation. Improving patient safety and reducing the incidents of harm is a key element of this.