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NHS medical legal costs- excessive should be capped

The UK government plans to limit excessive fees some lawyers claim in medical negligence cases against the NHS.

UK government plans to limits "excessive fees" some lawyers claim in medical negligence cases against the NHSOfficials want a defined limit on legal costs in cases where the claims are below £100,000, saying that some lawyers submit bills that charge more than patients receive in compensation.

But solicitors warn the move could deny patients access to justice. Figures show the NHS was charged £259 million in legal fees for claims in 2013-14.

The NHS did recoup £74 million by challenging some claims made in 2013-14, but the Department of Health says taking these cases to court is costly and time consuming and believes further savings could be made.

Officials say their proposals, which will be open to public consultation in the autumn, would ensure lawyer’s fees are more proportionate and reflect the amount of compensation patients receive

They give as an example once case where a patient received £11,800 in damages but the legal fees, which the NHS had to recompense, totalled £175,000.

Health Minister, Ben Gummer, said: “Safe, compassionate care is my upmost priority and to achieve this, the NHS must make sure every penny counts.

“Unscrupulously, some lawyers have used patient claims to load grossly excessive costs onto the NHS and charge far more than the patient receives in compensation.”

The Medical Defence Union, which offers doctors guidance on medico-legal issues, supported the move.

Dr Matthew Lee, professional services director for the MDU, said: “Patients often need to meet part or all of these costs themselves but the system must provide access to justice where patients have been negligently harmed.”

“Legal fees must, therefore, be affordable and proportionate.”

“If it was decided to introduce a well-thought-out, fixed-cost structure for legal costs in clinical negligence claims that could only be a good thing and should result in legal fees becoming more affordable and proportionate to the compensation claimed by the patient.”

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