Changes urged in negligence claims ases

HEALTH: Consultants to be subject to same disciplinary procedures as rest of NHS, while a faster system is urged for victims of poor treatment
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The Independent Online
PATIENTS WHO suffer injuries through medical negligence should no longer have to go to court to prove their case, a senior High Court judge has recommended, in proposals being considered by the Department of Health.

Lord Justice Otton, a leading medical negligence judge and chairman of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, has instead called for a new medical negligence body to be run on similar lines to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

Lord Justice Otton said: "Parents rarely succeed in proving negligence but suffer great financial hardship in rearing such children." Under his plan, patients would have to show only that their injury was because of what happened in the hospital and not prove a doctor's negligence.

He said many judges relied on expert testimony to guide them. "Judges are not equipped by their training, expertise or experience to carry out risk benefit analysis," said Lord Justice Otton. He added thatmany hospitals "sit on" claims in the hope that the claimant will give up their case.

Under Lord Justice Otton's three-stage scheme the amount of compensation would be fixed by a panel of doctors rather than lawyers.

Claims under pounds 10,000 would first be considered by a clinical risk manager for the hospital, who could recommend the level of compensation.

Claims between pounds 10,000 and pounds 500,000 would be dealt with by a medical injuries compensation authority.

Very serious cases would go straight to that body, which would also decide whether the hospital should pay.

The British Medical Association welcomed the proposals.