Tighter Rules on Provision of Medical Records
In his long awaited report, Lord Justice Jackson made some far-reaching recommendations in relation to personal injury claim generally. His findings specifically regarding clinical negligence claims do make interesting reading, in so much as he acknowledges the different influences that apply to clinical negligence and the amount of expert evidence that is required to bring, and defend a claim. Expert medical knowledge is required at every stage of the process, which makes such claims inherently expensive and lengthy. To try to reduce costs in these circumstances is more about streamlining the existing system, whilst retaining the basic structure. Without expert evidence, there is simply no guidance on the medical standards appropriate to any particular case, by which it can be decided that treatment is or is not negligent.
LJ Jackson makes the useful recommendation that there is often a delay before medical records are provided, which I believe is largely down to a lack of co-ordination and organisation in the medical records departments of Trusts. He proposes that after the usual 40 day time limit for records to be provided has expired, there should no longer be a fee payable for the records, and after 60 days, the Trust would face a fine. Whilst the amount of the fine will be decided at a later date, this is a very important step. Trusts are motivated by targets that are driven by financial incentives, and any area of a Trust that may be liable to pay fines in relation to the numerous records requests received daily, is very likely to have heavy investment to ensure that fines are avoided. This is a very welcome recommendation that will in turn save time and money when investigating clinical negligence claims, in line with LJ Jackson’s aims.
Suzanne is a Partner and is head of the clinical negligence department.