NHS hospitals will no longer provide office or advertising space for law firms or claims management companies who encourage patients or their families to take the NHS to court, NHS England has announced. Every effort must also be made to ensure lawyers and claims managers don’t approach patients or their families in hospital to drum up business without being asked first.
NHS England has taken action to protect patients, families, the NHS and taxpayers. Following a consultation exercise, the new rules have been introduced through changes to the contract under which NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts operate. The NHS spent £1.7 billion on clinical negligence claims in 2016/17, with legal costs accounting for 36 per cent of the total bill.
An NHS England spokesperson said: “Money spent defending speculative legal claims is money hospitals can’t then spend on looking after patients. That’s why legal firms who pursue the NHS should not advertise in or operate from our hospitals. From February, Trusts are now prohibited from entering or renewing agreements with firms who want to sue them. Staying in hospital is often a traumatic experience, one that is made worse by lawyers soliciting patients or their families for business – a practice we are also calling on Trusts to do all they can to stop.”
The new ban came into force on 1 February 2018. The changes will not affect valuable services such as those law firms who run programmes in Major Trauma Centres providing pro bono services to patients and families that have been through life changing events. NHS England signalled the intention to stop law firms from operating from, or for touting for business in, NHS premises in March 2017 and has now delivered on that promise.