Articles From the Team

What's in store for clinical negligence practitioners?

A report by the National Health Executive published last month made interesting reading for those concerned with the clinical negligence sector.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) reported that the amount paid in damages and legal costs exceed £1bn in 2014-2015, money it stated which could have been used to treat an abundance of patients in genuine need of medical intervention. This figure is projected to rise significantly in the coming years.

Dr Michael Devlin, MDU head of professional standards and liaison, is quoted as saying “We have to stop money haemorrhaging out of the NHS in compensation awards. Today’s figures only accentuate the need for a complete rethink of personal injury law".

In June, the Department of Health announced intentions to impose a cap on the fees lawyers can claim in medical negligence cases against the NHS. This would save it up to £80m by fixing fees a lawyer can charge for claims of up to £100,000.

The link to the article is here and it does make compelling reading as to the fundamental changes that are likely to be made to the clinical negligence landscape:

As a specialist recruiter for both clinical negligence and personal injury professionals this resonated strongly, particularly given the upsurge in recruitment opportunities for both claimant and defendant lawyers.

In essence, the proposed clinical negligence changes are Jackson all over again. The personal injury market changed beyond recognition following the implementation of fixed fees to personal injury claims. Firms reacted by changing their business models, as any right thinking and properly managed business would do, to continue to operate profitably. It would appear that clinical negligence practices are reacting swiftly given the surge in recruitment opportunities.

Claimant lawyers are accelerating the pursuit of claims prior to the inevitable changes, whatever form they ultimately take, but will almost certainly contain fixed fees for costs at some level. To increase the level of actions initiated prior to the anticipated changes practices are seeking to add skilled clinical negligence lawyers to their existing teams to expedite the pursuit of claims on behalf of genuinely injured claimants.

The knock on affect is that defendant firms are now looking to recruit experts to deal with the upsurge in actions and provide valued assistance to medical professionals and their insurers.

Regardless of your views on the ethics of clinical negligence claims (which tend to be polarised as between sympathy garnered towards either a claimant or defendant) this is a great time to be in the clinical negligence sector given the opportunities on offer.

A number of firms are now looking beyond the small pool of talented clinical negligence lawyers and are willing to give opportunities to catastrophic injury lawyers who are looking to make the transition to the clinical negligence arena in order to meet the demand of the increased level of actions. Likewise, clinical negligence firms are more willing to consider candidates who wish to make the switch from the claimant side to a defendant role (or vice versa), which means that the time is perfect for any disenchanted claimant clinical negligence lawyers to make the switch to the challenging and rewarding defendant sector.

Whilst we will all wait with considerable interest as to how the legislatures will influence the market, and also how the market reacts, there has arguably never been a more attractive time in terms of opportunities for clinical negligence lawyers.

If you are a clinical negligence solicitor that is interested in defendant or claimant practice and feel free to contact BCL Legal for a confidential discussion on how best to grasp the opportunities available and progress your career as a clinical negligence specialist.

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