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Making amends or making things worse? Clinical negligence reform and patient redress in England

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This paper examines the government’s reform of the current system of clinical negligence litigation in England, focusing on an analysis of the redress scheme for low value claims to be established under the NHS Redress Act 2006. The Act establishes a scheme to provide a package of redress to patients in circumstances where they have suffered harm as a result of negligence during the course of medical treatment provided by the NHS. One of the British Government’s central aims in embarking upon reform in this area was to provide a low cost, quick and genuine alternative to the current clinical negligence litigation system. This paper critically analyses this reform of the current system by reference to an examination of what constitutes a just redress scheme in the circumstances. Such analysis shows that the government has missed a golden opportunity to establish a scheme which truly ‘makes amends’ to patients who have suffered harm through medical treatment in the NHS. Instead, the scheme is likely to operate in practice as an administrative scheme for low value claims that serves the institutional and financial interests of the NHS, and therefore fails to address longstanding patient concerns over the provision of redress arising out of harm suffered through medical treatment. As a result, patient confidence in the scheme is likely to be undermined in the long term.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Law, University of Manchester

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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