Queen’s Bench judge Master Cook has slammed government plans to push ahead with fixed costs in clinical negligence cases worth up to £250,000.
The master said change ‘should not be driven on the basis of out-of-date statistics and the short-term financial interest of the NHS’, despite the ‘perhaps irresistible momentum’ towards fixed costs in civil claims.
Cook, who was giving his personal views at a seminar hosted by 7 Bedford Row, said it was ‘profoundly worrying’ that government still planned to bring in fixed costs for clinical negligence this October – even though the full public consultation initially envisaged by the Department of Health had yet to materialise.
Cook added: ‘What I find particularly concerning is how the [NHS Litigation Authority's] concern over disproportionate costs in “lower-value claims” - that is, claims valued up to £25,000 - has morphed into a proposal to fix costs in cases up to £250,000.’
Criticising assertions in the authority's 2015 annual report that lower-value claims are causing disproportionate costs to the health service, the judge said: ‘There is a respectable case to be made that the NHSLA has presented the statistics in a less than neutral fashion.’
Richard Norman, Geldards’ Associate, added: “At times, even the most devastating cases can have limited financial value, but does this mean these victims of medical accidents should not have their cases investigated?
“Fixing fees is likely to disadvantage patients who are avoidably injured, or those bereaved as a result of Clinical Negligence, because their lawyers’ hands will be financially tied.”
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