Birth injury rapid resolution and redress scheme has flaws despite good intentions

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The Government has launched a consultation on a new rapid resolution and redress (RRR) compensation scheme for parents whose children suffer a birth injury. It means that eligible families will be given the option to join an alternative system of compensation that offers support and regular payments without the need to bring a claim through the Courts.   It would offer counselling, case management and legal advice. It is intended to lead to rapid resolution of cases, settle complaints more quickly and encourage staff to be open and learn from their mistakes.

Statistics published by the BBC suggest that for every 1000 births in England more than 7 babies are born dead or die soon afterwards.  Jeremey Hunt, Health Secretary, suggested that families could wait more than 11 years for settlement, spending more than £500 million in 2005 on resolving legal disputes caused by maternity staff.

As a Claimant solicitor dealing with these cases, in theory, rapid resolution sounds like a welcome proposition. Early admission should take out some of the upset and anger caused when hospitals traditionally defend their position and actions before going on at a much later stage to reverse that, adding an apology. It creates distrust and unnecessary heartache.  The cost of fighting a case would be reduced if Trusts were to hold up their hands appropriately.

Unfortunately, the notion fails to recognise the complexity in birth brain damage cases.  Just by way of example, the potential for different medical opinion where there are timing issues involved, is great.  In a delayed delivery case the extent of delay admitted and the timing of events have a huge impact on the extent of damage caused, and on value. The difference could amount to millions of pounds, settlements that can secure a future. Rapid Resolution does not account for these occurrences which traditionally are settled in the forum of the High Court, before a suitably qualified autonomous Judge presented with both sides of the argument.

Admitting that a mistake has been made, and that it has caused some damage is only the start.  It seems that the injured Claimant is expected to accept the unchallenged evidence presented.  The existing litigation process tests the evidence and I question the ability of a solicitor/ advisor, appointed by the NHS to provide impartial advice. The NHS are always looking to save money, and I don’t think this sits comfortably with acting in the best interests of the injured Claimant.

It is however good to see that lack of transparency and Rapid Resolution is on the agenda.  This might help to reduce anguish for all parties. Steps are being taken to encourage families to share their experiences and highlight that the NHS can do more to better support families when serious issues do occur in childbirth.

If you are looking for any more information with regards to our services view our Clinical Negligence section. You can also contact solicitor Leonie Millard in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 770517. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

 

Leonie Millard

About Leonie Millard

Leonie is a Partner within the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence Department at Forbes Solicitors. Leonie’s blogs cover her specialisms in road traffic accidents, slips and trips, occupiers' liability, criminal injuries compensation authority claims and cases against hospital Trusts, GP's, dentists and private practices.
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