SCIL campaign against the government’s fixed recoverable cost (FRC) proposals
Ashtons Legal’s Head of Medical Negligence and Partner, Sharon Allison, recently attended the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers (SCIL) conference in Birmingham, the first event in her capacity as Vice Chair of the society.
SCIL is a member organisation for specialist claimant solicitor firms and currently has representation from over 80 specialist medical injury firms in the UK.
The society are spearheading a campaign which is actively opposing and campaigning against the Government’s Fixed Recoverable Cost (FRC) proposals. Under the proposal, the Department of Health plans to streamline the process for most lower-value claims worth up to £25,000 and cap the amount that lawyers can recover for doing this work. The effect this will have is many specialist firms pulling out of representing Claimants for lower value claims leaving them either represented by non-specialist firms, or unable to claim. Speaking at last week’s conference, Sir Bob Neill MP, chair of the Justice Select Committee, stated that he was not opposed to fixed costs in principle but that the current proposals may not be workable and that injured people who have suffered from negligent practice should not lose their right to claim.
Sharon Allison says: “Paul Rumley (Chair of SCIL) is absolutely right when he says that the problem does not start with the lawyers – it starts when the harm is caused. Efforts are better placed trying to reduce avoidable patient harm rather than punishing the injured person. That injured person is either likely to forgo nearly all of their damages if they are fortunate enough to find a lawyer who will take it on or worse still, they won’t be able to claim as they will not be able to find a specialist lawyer who will represent them. I cannot understand the mind-set of restricting the aftermath of an avoidable medical injury and pay little heed to reducing harm in the first place. It logically follows that if you prevent harm in the first place, there will be fewer claims.”
She adds: “The Government narrative is concerning, not least as MP’s have little knowledge and understanding of the clinical negligence system or the data within it. It was only last month that an MP, Maria Caulfield, had to set the record straight in wrongly advising that the driver behind the Fixed Recoverable Costs consultation was increasing Claimant legal costs, when these had in fact, fallen. Whilst the record was corrected, the same MP went on to say that it was actually Claimant’s damages which had increased but this is not reflected in the NHS Resolution’s recent annual report which identifies a fall in Claimant damages and Claimant legal costs. Increased Defendant costs were not mentioned.”
“The potential outcome of these proposals will restrict access to justice for the very groups who are most vulnerable (low income families, elderly, those with disabilities etc). MP’s have a duty to appraise themselves on the facts and then consider very carefully the impact that such measures will have on their constituents. The public deserve a safe NHS and the Government should have a laser focus on how they achieve that without restricting rights to justice when harmed”.
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