Legal protection urged over cost of negligence claims
Dental Protection is calling on the Government to introduce a package of legal reforms that would protect dentists from the spiralling cost of clinical negligence claims.
The proposals include:
- a fixed recoverable cost scheme – to stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees
- an increase in the small claims track threshold for clinical negligence claims up to £5,000 – so more low-level, straightforward claims are routinely managed within the small claims track and the cost of these claims are reduced
- a minimum threshold for cash compensation relating to claims for minor injuries – to reduce the cumulative cost of damage pay-outs where only very minor injuries are sustained.
The rising cost of clinical negligence claims against doctors and wider the NHS has received significant attention in recent years. The NHS spent £2.2bn on clinical negligence claims last year – a 30 per cent increase on the previous year. This has led to the government pledging to introduce a clinical negligence strategy to control the amount of NHS funds being spent on claims.
However, Dental Protection believes the impact of rising clinical negligence costs on dentists has received insufficient attention and is urging the government to ensure that the forthcoming strategy tackles this problem head on. Without reform, there is significant concern that the cost of clinical negligence claims will continue to rise. This is especially concerning given the substantial number of claims received relating to the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease, which ‘no-win, no-fee’ lawyers increasingly target due to higher financial rewards for them.
Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection, said: “It is not unusual for the costs awarded to claimant lawyers to be significantly higher than the damages paid to the patient – sometimes it can be two or three times higher. This is inequitable and unreasonable and we are working with the government to address this problem.
“We also need action to ensure straightforward claims are dealt with in a more proportionate way and also to stop claims from being taken forward in the first place when only minor inconveniences have arisen.”
The survey also showed that a full time dentist in the UK can now expect to receive two claims over a typical career.
“It is not unusual for costs awarded to claimant lawyers to be significantly higher than the damages paid to the patient”