There has been a significant increase in medical negligence claims over the past few years. However, as reported by The Times, such increase is not due to the NHS not being able to provide appropriate care to its patients or its reduced medical standards. The number of such claims is rising because of the new developments in the legal services market that the Medical Defence Union strongly believes in.
To save thins from ever-growing bills that come with compensating the types of medical negligence injuries that have never been available for compensation before, the MDU has proposed a new 6-point reform plan that is to start in April, 2019. The six suggestions include:
1. Compensation for the damage caused by negligence should only occur if all the future care of the patient is provided by the NHS, and not the private sector.
2. The patient requiring compensation should be allowed to buy health and social care from public providers.
3. An independent body should set a standard care package that will be available to all patients with the same condition, no matter how it was caused.
4. A specific, limited period of time should be set for making any medical negligence claims that would replace the current arrangements which allow claims to be brought even decades after the damage was caused.
5. A limit should be set for the amount of compensation paid to the patient for future loss of income due to the damage experienced.
6. A personal injury discount rate should be set, reflecting how damages incurred are invested and spent.
However, Richard Lodge, The Times, believes such MDU reform plan is “idealistic and unworkable.” He argues that slightly adjusting the litigation system and encouraging early mediation would be a lot more effective. He claims that the MDU’s suggestion for all future care being provided by the NHS only is too simplistic since years of the NHS and Social Services provision have proved it to be inadequate, and so private provision is necessary.
Lodge further argues that allowing these patients to buy health and social care from public providers would create exactly the kind of situation that the MDU is trying to avoid – more of the taxes paid by taxpayers being allocated to medical negligence patients and away from non-negligence patients. He then raises questions of who the independent body, referred to in suggestion 3, would be and if the checklist, referred to in suggestion 4, is really better than an individual assessment of the patient’s needs.
The proposed time limit for making claims and the changes in compensation for future income loss is also unlikely to make much impact. Finally, Richard Lodge suggests that the personal injury discount rate, referred to in suggestion 6, is unnecessary because NHS Resolution is already promoting early mediation in negligence disputes to reduce the costs of lawyers.