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Advice line - Avoiding negligence claims

Noticed that more people are pursuing clinical negligence claims?

‘No win, no fee’ lawyers could be the reason, warns William Hulse

There has been a sharp rise in clinical negligence claims reported under the CSP’s professional liability insurance (PLI) programme.

Claims are always unsettling, particularly when challenging the high professional standards which members aspire.  

But what is the main cause of this increase? 

The most prominent is the propensity for patients to use ‘no win no fee’ lawyers.  

Personal injury lawyers advertise widely, promising rich rewards where medical negligence may have occurred, no matter how unlikely or remote the possibility

Some claims are justified, and no one can argue that fair compensation is not a just result for any harm caused in the process of healthcare.

The problem is that around 80 per cent of the claims brought against members are simply never proven.  

Nevertheless, the anxiety and defence costs remain no less diluted until the case is eventually resolved, which often takes three or more years.

Few cases end up in court, but for many, legal fees make up more than half of the total costs involved.

Take the case of a burns victim following short wave diathermy treatment: the patient received £20,000 in compensation – and the solicitors an eye-watering £22,000 in fees.

Fortunately, members have the protection of the CSP’s PLI programme which provides legal representation and support during this stressful process.

Members can, however, reduce the possibility of claims being made against them by following these simple rules:

  • Carefully record the assessments and treatments undertaken (records must be retained for at least six years)
  • Listen carefully and sympathetically to complaints, discuss the patient’s concerns, but do not admit responsibility or make payments that might be construed as compensation.
  • If you believe the patient may bring a compensation claim, please read the brokers’ helpful information paper PLI Claims Guide Notification.
  • If, after reading the guide, you believe the matter should be reported to insurers, please contact the CSP’s enquiry handling unit in the first instance.

William Hulse is managing director of LFC Graybrook Limited, insurance brokers to the CSP

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