Will reforming the legal aid system affect patient care?

NHS frontline services in Lincolnshire could be hit by the proposed changes in personal injury compensation laws, according to the National Accident Helpline.

The legal services firm says that curbing the no win, no fee system of offers will mean less patients lodge medical negligence claims. And this, the organisation says, could mean that up to £3 million is spent on personal injury compensation rather than hospital services.

Last financial year, Lincolnshire NHS Trusts claimed £3 million in legal aid. £1.89 million was claimed by the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and the remainder by the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust. Once legal aid is no longer available, this money may have to be taken from the budget for patient care.

The government intends to reform the system of legal aid to reduce the civil litigation bill for taxpayers, but in doing so it could be threatening the ability of the NHS to treat seriously injured patients.

Reforms to the system are currently being debated in parliament, but Samantha Porteous, the National Accident Helpline’s chief executive, said the government has not taken into consideration the full impact of its reforms.

Many industry experts, including personal injury solicitors, have warned the Justice Department that the reforms will deny access to justice to patients, and now there is evidence to show that patient care could also suffer.

The NAH added that NHS trusts across the UK reclaimed £196 million in legal aid in the last financial year.



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