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Moves by the government aimed at reducing the NHS’s clinical negligence claims legal fee bill – which during the year 2013-14 was £259m – have been delayed. The introduction of fixed recoverable costs for claims of up to £100,000 will now not go ahead on 1 October as originally planned.
According to media reports, the former health minister Ben Gummer confirmed the delay in a letter to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, in which he indicated the introduction of fixed fees would still take place however as soon as possible following consultation, in line with civil procedure rules.
The decision comes after repeated delays in the consultation process on the change which has meant the original implementation timetable is no longer achievable. Consultation had been expected to start last autumn, and there remains uncertainty around when it will commence. The result of the EU referendum and subsequent UK government changes have no doubt contributed to the delay, and some reports now suggest it could be published before the end of the summer. The government is being urged to ensure there is a thorough and proper consultation before introducing the fixed costs regime.
The implementation delay has generally been welcomed by legal organisations because of concerns around the lack of time there would have been available to prepare for any change and ensure claimants were fully informed and understood how the new regime would impact on the costs and running of clinical negligence cases.
Some organisations are understood to be considering alternative approaches to controlling medical negligence costs, and are in discussion with the NHS around these opportunities.
With the delay in implementation, concerns about the level and scope of consultation on the changes, and uncertainty around the scale of change, any announcement on how and when fixed costs might be introduced will come under intense scrutiny. Arc Legal will continue to update clients on developments.