A new online publication “Clinical negligence Law” reporting on issues of importance to those practising in the field of clinical negligence was launched this month. In the first issue the question of difficulties with obtaining interim payments from the NHS came under the spotlight. Views were sought from a number of experienced lawyers dealing with claims against the NHS, amongst them, Chris Thorne, Partner at Clarke Wilmott whose opinion was reported:
“Obtaining interim payments from the NHS in respect of damages or payments on account of costs at conclusion of a case has never been more difficult. A request for a substantial interim payment in a birth injury case made in January recently resulted in a payment being made but not until June. The only rationale for the delay would appear to have been to put the payment beyond he April financial year end. The timing was such that the delay was more than a little inconvenient for the client but not so great that the cost of a contested application could be justified in trying to force earlier payment.
The NHSLA appear willing to rely on the inevitable delays in obtaining a court hearing, in tandem with the unpalatable cost of such an application, as a means of delaying payment. Rumours have been circulating amongst Claimant’s solicitors since late 2013 that the NHSLA were operating a fairly overt policy of avoiding payment wherever possible and deferring outlay until the 2014/15 financial year began.
Similarly, they are repeatedly refusing to agree a payment on account of costs on conclusion of proceedings, claiming a “lack of instructions” on the point at round table settlement meetings and taking time over reaching any agreement to pay costs in draft consent orders.
Whilst keeping lawyers out of their costs may seem fair game, in reality this is the client’s money and it is the client who is being deprived of their entitlement. The expectation on the part of the NHS is that the lawyers will bear the loss for their clients and not charge interest on the fees which are due.
As ever, a more realistic assessment of which cases they should defend and which they should settle would be a far more effective means by which the NHSLA could save money, than engaging in delay and avoidance, which only serves to cause distress to injured patients and increase costs in the long term.”
The article reflects the difficulties currently being experienced as Claimant solicitors such as Chris and his colleagues in the Clinical Negligence team at Clarke Willmott strive to achieve the best possible results for their clients, in pursuit of their aim to rebuild lives.
For advice on clinical negligence matters Chris Thorne.