Thompsons Solicitors, the UK's leading personal injury and trade union law firm, today called on former cabinet minister Stephen Byers to turn his fire on NHS underfunding and on improving workplace health and safety rather than fuelling the myth of the so-called compensation culture.

Responding to a speech made by Mr Byers in Birmingham today in which he said that compensation claims against schools and the NHS are crippling public services, Thompsons said it was time to stop blaming an imaginary compensation culture.

Thompsons partner Tom Jones said: "Stephen Byers should know better than to jump on the compensation culture bandwagon. A compensation claim will not succeed unless someone has been injured by the negligence of someone else. Blaming injured people, their lawyers and by default the trade unions who back claims, for the financial difficulties of the NHS is a cheap shot.

Underfunding and poor management cause accidents

"If people are the victims of medical negligence or poor health and safety at work which causes them an injury - in the NHS, in schools or anywhere else, then the answer is to learn lessons and improve the workplace health and safety.

Thompsons pointed to the survey by The Commission for Health Improvement which found that 47 per cent of NHS staff had witnessed an incident which could have harmed a patient and that nearly half had suffered an injury or accident at work - mainly through needlesticks, trips and falls, lifting and dangerous substances. The CHI described working conditions in the NHS as "unacceptable".

"It is underfunding and poor management which results in working conditions that cause injury and accidents and leads to compensation claims not compensation culture," Mr Jones said.

He added that Thompsons runs around 70,000 compensation claims a year for injured people, including NHS workers and victims of clinical negligence, and yet the firm has seen no marked increase in claims.

"We welcome some of the innovative ideas that Stephen Byers has proposed such as the regulation of accident claims but don't lets detract from those ideas by blaming the innocent victims of injury for taking claims."