Former CEO of the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) and current chief executive of the Law Society, Catherine Dixon, has raised serious concerns about the Department of Health’s proposals to target claimant solicitors in its attempt to reduce the cost of clinical negligence claims to the NHS. We support her concerns.

While the exact details of the proposals are yet to be revealed, the Department of Health is planning to open a public consultation this autumn. In it, the Department of Health has said it will be consulting on introducing fixed costs for claimant solicitors and cap fees paid to expert witnesses with the aim of linking legal fees in clinical negligence claims to the amount of compensation a victim receives.

In the article Ms Dixon explains that in 2014, the NHSLA spent £1,169,506,598 on medical negligence claims, the vast majority of this was paid to children who had suffered a brain injury during birth for rehabilitation and care costs with a view to helping them live as normal a life as possible. It is a cost that the NHS has budgeted for for the next 80 years in anticipation of ongoing claims.

Running claims against the NHS gives us no pleasure, but the answer isn’t, as Ms Dixon makes clear, to restrict access to justice. Again, as with so many accidents in and out of work and on and off the roads, the answer is investment in better training, adequate staffing levels, the effective use of technology and robust procedures. It is not trying to stop those who are mistreated from getting proper representation and proper levels of compensation, but to do everything possible to reduce the number of incidents of clinical negligence.

The reality is that clinical negligence law is highly specialised and complex. Cases often require a great deal of investigation, and the Department of Health’s plans to introduce fixed fees could limit injured patients’ ability to claim proper compensation for what are almost always life-changing injuries. Of course, it would be possible to cut lawyers out of the process, but the victims of NHS negligence would then become victims twice over.

Those injured by the State will struggle as they seek to find people to represent them or take cuts from their compensation to pay those who did, for them that would mean less rehabilitation, less support for their ongoing disabilities and less long-term care. The proposals look like they will stop people who have genuinely been harmed, through no fault of their own, from getting the financial support they need to live with the injuries they have suffered.

Like Ms Dixon, we at Thompsons are staunch supporters of the NHS and the people who work in it. We join her plea to the government to concentrate on making our NHS safer, rather than trying to limit injured people’s right to justice by preventing them from accessing the knowledge specialist solicitors have in medical negligence law.