The health minister has had to backtrack on comments she made over the ‘biggest driver of rising negligence costs’.
MP Maria Caulfield, the under-secretary of state for patient safety and primary care, told the health and social care select committee that rising legal costs were to blame for the increasing burden of litigation on the NHS.
But last week she apologised, conceding that claimant costs have actually levelled out for the past five years – and fell in 2020/21.
“Although rising legal costs have been an important driver of costs over the last 15 years, the main driver has for the last few years been rising compensation payments,” Caulfield said.
Consultation on imposing fixed recoverable costs for cases worth less than £25,000 has begun. Ministers may be further pressured when the health committee publishes its report on the future of NHS litigation.
Claimant representatives warned the government, that whilst claimant costs are higher than defence costs, the comparison is irrelevant because it will always cost more to discharge the burden of proof.
In written evidence submitted to the committee on fixed costs, the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers said the government’s plan was ‘flawed’ as it disproportionately affects poorer injured patients.