Lawyers to probe law on clawing back NHS costs

Lawyers will meet in Nottingham on Friday to discuss taking test cases against those who cause accidents, to ensure they pay for their victims' National Health Service medical costs.

Organised by East Anglia University Personal Injury and Medical Law Centre director Frederick Holding, the meeting of about 20 lawyers will examine whether existing legislation allows the NHS to recoup some of the costs of patient care.

Holding argues legislation dating back to 1946 means the NHS can charge for services, and patient case managers should be trained and encouraged to start legal action at the earliest possible moment.

“The answer may be to ask the patient or family to sign an undertaking to pay if legal action is successful later and for the treatment to be under the NHS if it is not,” said Holding.

He is targeting defendants' insurance companies and argues that insurers would want to settle early to avoid extensive costs and only important test cases would go to court.

“I would not think it would generally generate more work, but it would be in the spirit of Lord Woolf,” he added.

Holding and his colleagues have been working on their proposals for about six months and were surprised last week when the Law Commission produced similar proposals.

The commission argued that, because private medical insurers can recoup costs from defendants through the victims' claim, the NHS should be allowed similar rights.