Four personal injury law firms and a charity, the Brain Injury Group, have launched a national service to help ensure victims of major trauma have access to “rehab-focused lawyers”.
Trevor Sterling, chair of the Major Trauma Group, said lawyers needed to work more closely with healthcare professionals at a time when the NHS was under “huge stress” because of Covid-19.
The law firms involved are Boyes Turner, CL Medilaw, Enable Law and Moore Barlow. The Major Trauma Group will operate on a not-for-profit basis and aims to recruit medical practitioners to help advise it.
The group says trauma patients leaving hospital often have limited knowledge of how to access rehabilitation services, and the group aims to be a source of information for them as well as directing them to appropriate legal services, and lobbying on policy issues.
Mr Sterling, a partner at Moore Barlow, said he had learnt in three decades as a personal injury lawyer that there were a “number of excellent law firms and lawyers” but they were operating in a “framework that has not really changed other than by regulatory changes which are politically influenced”.
This was the first time personal injury lawyers had collaborated in a way “based on the need improve clinical outcomes using the legal process in tandem with the healthcare system”, he said.
Membership of the group is not restricted to the four firms and more will be recruited so the group could provide nationwide coverage.
He said that with more 20,000 major trauma patients a year, there was enough work to go round and it was possible for law firms to work in a “non-competitive” way.
“The aim is for victims to have a wide choice of law firms with a rehab focus. The number depends on where there is a need.”
Mr Sterling said one of the group’s functions would be lobbying for reforms, such as improvements to the government’s injury costs recovery scheme, which had not kept up with the costs of recovery.
“This means that it is common practice that the NHS has to cover this shortfall in funding.”
He said Covid-19 had introduced “unwelcome issues” for people affected by major trauma and their families, from the closure of rehabilitation services to “the upset of not being able to see family whilst in hospital”.
Mr Sterling said the NHS was under “huge stress” because of Covid-19 and in response law firms should be working collectively.
He added that the group would be advised by medical practitioners, although only one had been recruited so far.
“Lawyers have become distant relatives of healthcare professionals. We are realigning that.”
The Major Trauma Group also aims to supplement the rehabilitation available to people affected by major trauma, helping to ease pressures on the NHS, and raise awareness of and provide solutions to important issues facing major trauma centres and their patients.