The Law Society Gazette recently reported:
“NHS lawyers warned the government before it published its bill on legal aid reform that scrapping legal aid for clinical negligence claims would ‘massively’ escalate NHS legal costs, and leave some seriously injured people unable to bring cases. … The body, which is responsible for handling claims against the NHS, said reducing legal aid would lead claimants to make greater use of conditional fee agreements (CFAs), which would increase the legal costs the NHSLA would have to pay when it lost a case”.
The article continued: “It said the proposed partial implementation of Lord Jackson’s recommendations, without the removal of recoverability of uplifts and after-the-event insurance premiums, would result in an overall increase in public expenditure”.
And therein lies the answer.
The NHSLA was presumably commenting, at the time, on the proposals for removing legal aid from clinical negligence claims. There were opposed to this change if Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals to end recoverability of success fees and ATE premiums were not implemented. However, given the government is pressing ahead with that change, one might think the headline “NHS lawyers warned government that reforms would escalate its costs” was somewhat misleading under the circumstances.
The article then gave a quote from Shadow Justice Minister Andrew Slaughter MP:
“On almost every occasion that the government is asked to justify its cuts to legal assistance in clinical negligence cases, it points to the cost to the NHS. Now we find the NHS’s own lawyers are saying it is immoral and economically misguided to prevent brain-damaged children and adults from getting justice. This government just isn’t listening.”
In fact, the government did listen to the NHSLA’s concern about removing legal aid from clinical negligence without also implementing Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals.