A protocol agreed in the wake of Covid-19 to better manage clinical negligence claims during the pandemic is remaining in place after it appeared to reduce the number of contested cases.
There has been a 6% reduction in litigated cases in the last two financial years, equating to 572 cases and costs savings to the taxpayer.
The average difference in costs paid to claimant solicitors on litigated versus non-litigated closed cases was around £57,000 per claim.
But NHS Resolution cautioned that it had still to investigate the impact of Covid on the number of claims before it could be certain about the extent to which the fall in litigated claims was due to the protocol.
The Covid-19 clinical negligence protocol – unveiled in August 2020 and last updated in June 2021 – is a collaboration between NHS Resolution, patient charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) and the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers (SCIL).
Unlike other time-limited claims protocols that were agreed during lockdown, the agreement is in place until one of the parties gives notice to end it.
Simon Hammond, director of claims management at NHS Resolution, said: “The clinical negligence protocol has proven how collaboration can be of benefit to all parties. We look forward to working with SCIL and AvMA on the possibility of developing how the protocol could apply in a post-Covid environment.”
Lisa O’Dwyer, director of medico-legal services at AvMA, said: “The impressive likely cost savings are testament to what can be achieved when key, specialist clinical negligence stakeholders come together and collaborate.
“More generally, it is very positive to note that both claimant and defendant practitioners have derived considerable benefit from the clinical negligence protocol.”
SCIL chairman Paul Rumley added: “These figures are very encouraging, and we are pleased to be part of this effective, practical and now costs-saving work. It goes to show how specialist claimant lawyers and indemnifiers can work in collaboration to find practical solutions to the challenges faced.”
The protocol provides:
- Moratoriums on limitation until three months after the protocol ends;
- Making email to serve and receive documents the default position;
- Encouraging innovation, such as medical experts examining clients online;
- Encouraging more co-operation to progress claims, particularly interim payments of damages and costs to avoid unnecessary court hearings;
- Settlement meetings and mediations to take place remotely wherever possible; and
- Considering whether costs budgeting needs to take place initially or an adjournment sought in order to save court and other resources.