Families who have lost babies in maternity scandal criticising lawyer fee cap
Families who have suffered the most unimaginable loss of a child in one of the worst reported maternity scandals have warned government ministers that their proposed plans to cap lawyers’ fees will mean patient safety will be compromised.
28 families have had the courage to sign a letter to the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, to mark their concern that ‘walls of silence’ will remain the norm and that families like them will be denied access to justice in the future. The letter goes on to demonstrate that specialist clinical negligence lawyers were front and centre in being able to break down those walls of silence and give families the independent support they need when dealing with the most profound grief.
Government recommendations to introduce Fixed Recoverable Costs for claims valued up to £25,000 will affect not only Maternity claims but also claims affecting many vulnerable groups in our society, such as those suffering from disability, mental issues and the elderly. The capped fee recommendations make these cases uncommercial to manage, and therefore many specialist Clinical Negligence Solicitors will simply not be able to provide this service.
Natalie Cosgrove, a Partner at Ashtons Legal, expresses her concerns that without proper access to justice by specialist lawyers, opportunities for learning will be lost. Natalie’s work in assisting families in Nottingham was pivotal in uncovering systematic failures that eventually led to an Independent Review by Donna Ockenden.
She comments: “Families are at the heart of sharing their devastating stories of loss and injury in order to enact change. Families do not go to lawyers because they want to. They go to lawyers when every other avenue has been exhausted, and they are exhausted. They need specialist lawyers to navigate a difficult and technical process whilst they swirl in the epicentre of grief.
“To remove proper avenues to specialist legal advice has little effect on the Hospital Trusts who have always and will always have specialist legal representation. They are the masters of public relations and of making promises to make good. What the families in Shrewsbury, Nottingham, Cwm Taff, East Kent, Doncaster and more have shown is that promises to make good do not always lead to better or often safe care.
“I know in my experience that this is the tip of the iceberg. We must not forget that the families are the public. Removing access to specialist legal advice for the public will disempower those very families who are determined that what happened to them should not happen to any others. Time and time again, it has been demonstrated that those families who had specialist representation were at the forefront of change, and change must happen.
“It is incredibly unfair that the public should be at the forefront of change in maternity care, but this is the position they have been put in. It is important that families’ voices are amplified and that the rule of law is upheld. Every member of the public should have fair access to justice. That has to be for the public and not simply for the hospital trusts.”
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