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These reforms include:
• The swift introduction of a pre-action protocol following the inclusion of legislation to allow this in the Legal Services Regulation Act
• Limits on lawyers’ fees in smaller value cases
• A debate on the merits of a limit on damages (special and general)
• Tariff of general damages created in statute
According to MPS, legal and procedural reform could save public money, which would be better spent on patient care. Furthermore, reform would make the legal system quicker, fairer and more efficient for healthcare professionals and their patients.
Mr John Tiernan, Executive Director of Member Engagement at MPS, said: “Because the cost of clinical negligence continues to be a challenge and is costing the public purse a significant amount of money, we believe that the new government must prioritise legal reform and support healthcare professionals so that they can do what they entered their profession to do – care for patients.”
MPS is calling for tort and procedural reform as part of its ‘Health sector priorities for the new government 2016’ report.
This report notes that, at the end 2014, the State Claims Agency (SCA) had 2,844 clinical claims under management, with an outstanding estimated liability of €1.16 billion of public money.
“Alongside this significant financial cost to the public purse, the knock-on impact of the rising cost of clinical negligence is also worrying. We are concerned that an increasing number of healthcare professionals are finding the cost of practising in the private sector unsustainable and more are considering working abroad or giving up practice altogether.
“In addition, any reduction in private practice services will inevitably result in increased demand on the public sector, where the costs of provision and the liability for any claims for clinical negligence would lie with the SCA in their entirety.”