Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is launching a crackdown on out of control legal costs, after a series of excessive claims over minor disputes. Around £23m is claimed by law firms each each in cases where payouts are below below £10,000.
The NHS is challenging legal fees through the courts. In one case reported in the Mail on Sunday, a firm called Rapid Response Solicitors billed £83,000 for a £1,000 settlement. In another, £58,000 was billed for a client who won just £2,500 for being scalded by a hot drink.
Catherine Dixon, the Chief Executive of the NHSLA, said: “Those costs are outrageous. When they are seeking to charge such excessive amounts they are taking money away from NHS care, and that is wrong.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The NHS Litigation Authority regularly inspects legal cost claims to ensure they are accurate and fair.
“We are looking at ways to reduce the cost further so that taxpayers get value for money, while making sure that patients and families get the compensation they deserve when things go wrong.”
The NHS spends £1.3bn a year on medical negligence, and law firms form an integral part of redress of grievance. As the NHS an effective monopoly, patients have very little option to shop around for healthcare, so the only way to keep standards up is to sue failing hospitals and practitioners.