Lawyers cashing in on NHS medical blunders got £13 a SECOND last year

Lawyers cashing in on NHS medical blunders were handed £13 every SECOND last year by the health service

  • Legal firms got £411 million from the NHS last year (equivalent to £13 a second)
  • Figures reveal that legal fees sometimes outstrip the damages paid to patients 
  • The Department of Health has vowed to try to reduce the mammoth bill

The NHS handed law firms the equivalent of £13 a second last year to cover fees racked up pursuing claims for medical blunders.

The £411 million bill – an average of £1.1 million a day – would pay for 17,000 new nurses or 24,000 kidney transplants. And figures reveal that legal fees sometimes outstrip the damages paid to patients.

NHS Resolution, which handles legal claims, says medical negligence specialists Irwin Mitchell received £50 million in claimant costs while rivals Slater and Gordon collected £20 million and Fletchers £13 million. 

The legal costs for 2018/19 have come down from the record high of £425 million in the previous year, but the amount of damages awarded rose by £238 million to £1.3 billion. The NHS spent a further £126 million on its own legal costs, up from £115 million the previous year [File photo]

The ten highest-earning firms were paid £139 million to cover fees while winning damages of £509 million. 

The Department of Health has vowed to try to reduce the mammoth bill, ‘to ensure even more money is available for frontline patient care’.

Dr Matthew Lee of the Medical Defence Union, which offers indemnity to doctors facing negligence claims, highlighted one case in which a patient received £1,000 compensation but lawyers sought £31,000 in costs, eventually settling for £19,000. 

He said: ‘The money spent on legal costs for clinical negligence cases is concerning because this is money which is desperately needed by the NHS to fund patient care.’

The £411 million bill – an average of £1.1 million a day – would pay for 17,000 new nurses or 24,000 kidney transplants. And figures reveal that legal fees sometimes outstrip the damages paid to patients [File photo]

The legal costs for 2018/19 have come down from the record high of £425 million in the previous year, but the amount of damages awarded rose by £238 million to £1.3 billion.

The NHS spent a further £126 million on its own legal costs, up from £115 million the previous year.

In February, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Royal Society of Medicine the level of compensation payouts was ‘unacceptable and clearly unsustainable’.

The NHS handed law firms the equivalent of £13 a second last year to cover fees racked up pursuing claims for medical blunders

As well as the lawyers’ fees, claimant costs include VAT, court fees and expert evidence to prove their injuries are genuine and to evaluate the support they need.

Lisa Jordan, head of medical negligence at Irwin Mitchell, said: ‘The compensation these patients receive is not a lottery win. 

It pays for vital rehabilitation and support to help them get their lives back on track and, in the case of birth injuries, pay for a lifetime of care for people left severely disabled.

‘They would much rather the negligence had never happened at all. To save money on legal costs, the NHS needs to focus on reducing the number of medical errors so there are fewer innocent victims needing our help.

‘All the costs and damages in our cases were approved by either the NHS and its solicitors or the courts.’

NHS Resolution told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Sometimes it is necessary to defend cases or challenge the amount claimed in the interests of the taxpayer.

‘We take a robust approach to excessive legal costs and fully support the work under way to tackle this issue so that access to justice can be delivered at a reasonable and proportionate cost.’

The spokesman added that cases going to mediation now outnumber those going to trial by six to one.

NHS Resolution, which handles legal claims, says medical negligence specialists Irwin Mitchell received £50 million in claimant costs while rivals Slater and Gordon collected £20 million and Fletchers £13 million [File photo]

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