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Ken Clarke quotes incorrect figures on legal costs paid by NHS – again

Whilst the real cost of such claims is clearly the injuries suffered by patients, Ken Clarke, Justice Secretary again focuses on the financial cost to the NHS in his interview on the Today programme on BBC radio 4 today. Whilst this may be understandable in the current economic climate, he has repeated the incorrect figures on legal costs on which he has previously relied to support changes to funding arrangements that can be used in claims.

He says “I mean in 2008-09 the NHS did pay out £312m in damages; it paid far more out to lawyers in fees, £456m. So it is the wrong way round and it is not where the NHS should be spending its money”

These figures are incorrect and misleading. In response to this, Andy Slaughter, the Shadow Justice Secretary has said “These figures are incorrect. We note that this has been used as justification for the changes several times by Mr Clarke and Jonathan Djanogly. £456m is the cost for damages (£312m), plus defence legal costs (£40m), plus claimant legal costs (£104m). Part of the reason for the disparity in defence and claimant costs is the cost of expert evidence.”

If we are to move forward to consider the most appropriate way of funding clinical negligence claims, we should first begin with a firm grasp of the current position using up to date and correct figures. In addition to this, I hope that the NHS and other treatment providers are considering methods to prevent such negligence occurring in the first place, saving lives, injuries and costs.

Suzanne is a Partner and is head of the clinical negligence department.

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