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The Role of the NHS Litigation Authority
Since 1995, most solicitors specialising in clinical negligence are likely to have dealt with the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), as it is the body that deals with claims for clinical, surgical and medical negligence made against the NHS.
The role of the NHSLA is two-fold; it also maintains an active risk management programme that is intended to minimise the chances of the health service facing a claim over its treatment of patients.
Once the NHSLA is called into a situation where a patient has suffered personal injury or loss and where a claim is to be made, it will provide the trust involved with relevant legal advisors, who are likely to attempt to settle with those of the claimant. Very few negligence claims are taken to trial, as an appropriate settlement is likely to be the preferred outcome for both claimant and trust. However, in situations where a mutually satisfactory definition of what is appropriate cannot be reached, and a court hearing therefore becomes necessary, the NHSLA solicitors will also represent the trust alleged to be responsible for the injury suffered by the claimant.
Although the NHSLA's role is to support and defend the medical profession in such claims, it is a public body and therefore provides information on its website to patients about the criteria that must be satisfied before a claim becomes viable, and methods of contacting an appropriate lawyer approved by the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA). It also provides information about alternative methods of dispute resolution.
The same site also provides information about the number and value of claims made each year in its annual reports and factsheets, which are all available to patients as well as clinicians. These show that the highest figures for 2007/08, both in terms of frequency and value, were related to birth injury and surgical error cases.
The clinical negligence department of Manchester law firm JMW Solicitors is highly experienced in leading claimants through the complex legislation to successful outcomes. The team, led by partner Eddie Jones, contains AvMA-approved lawyers with a Legal Aid franchise, and has been described as "Extremely committed and hands-on" by Chambers Guide to the UK Legal Profession.