AvMA Brings Court Proceedings Against the Government

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One of the reasons for the Government wanting to remove access to Legal Aid for medical negligence is that it says it costs £17 million a year.  Put this against the total legal aid budget of £2.2bn and it is a small proportion of the costs the government seeks to lose.  That is because specialist clinical negligence lawyers, like Blake Lapthorn, who are accredited by the Law Society and AvMA, bring claims that appear to have merit from the outset, and recover most of the costs from the defendant. AvMA are particularly concerned that losing legal aid will increase costs for the NHS, and because less medical errors will be scrutinised by the courts, there will be a negative effect on patient safety.

Legal Aid was established after World War II, offering access to justice regardless of financial status. But costs have spiralled in recent years and ministers say the current annual bill is too high. The government wants to reduce the current £2bn bill by around £350m a year in England and Wales by 2015, and sees clinical negligence claims as a relatively easy target.  They are seeking to scrap access to legal aid for housing and matrimonial cases as well, and the Judiciary have spoken out against these proposals.

The plans to scrap legal aid in medical negligence cases are already before parliament, in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

The government hopes the changes will act as a disincentive to anyone bringing "spurious cases", critics warn they could restrict access to justice for a huge range of claimants, including those on an average income who will not be able to raise thousand's of pounds to bring a claim, even though they have been injured by a doctors errors. It is important to recognise that claims are not just brought against the NHS, but also private doctors and clinics.  That means vulnerable people will be unable to bring good claims in respect of serious injury.

Blake Lapthorn are specialists in clinical negligence claims, and support the concerns are raised by AvMA and the Judiciary about the effects of removing legal aid for clinical negligence claims.

For further information please contact Caron Heyes, head of Blake Lapthorn's London clinical negligence team, on 020 7814 6902 or at caron.heyes@bllaw.co.uk

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