The pre-Jackson rush led the Medical Defence Union (MDU) to report a 20% surge in compensation claims in 2013 – what it has described as a “record year”. Claims against dentists rose by 10%.
Dr Christine Tomkins, chief executive of the MDU, said: “We fully support the legal costs reforms that came in to effect in April 2013, but in the short term we have seen claimants’ solicitors rushing to notify claims under the old arrangements, prolonging the disproportionately high costs the legal changes are intended to address.”
Dr Tomkins said 2013 was the busiest year in the MDU’s 128-year history, with over 33,000 calls from members to its advice line being answered and a “record number of new claims files” opened.
“A major factor in the increasing demand for our services was the surge we saw in the number of new claims against our members,” she said.
“We are hopeful that in the longer term the changes will see a reduction in the large sums paid to claimants’ lawyers.”
Dr Tomkins said there was some evidence this was starting to happen, with the numbers of claims being notified against dentists “slowing slightly” towards the end of 2013.
“We hope this trend will continue and spread to medical claims,” she said. “Compensation payments are also spiralling and we are working at government level to effect changes to control claims inflation so damages payments are affordable, sustainable and fair for all parties.”
In the MDU annual report for 2013, Dr Tomkins said the union had expanded its in-house legal department, instructing in-house lawyers on 30% more advisory and claims files than in the previous year.
“This avoided the need to instruct external solicitors in these cases and meant that, despite more members seeking our assistance, the overall spend on advisory legal costs continued to reduce.”
The overall legal spend for discretionary and insured claims rose from £25.1m in 2012 to £26.9m in 2013. Dr Tomkins added that the MDU successfully defended 70% of negligence claims against doctors.