NHSLA keeps panel of law firms on its toes

LAW firms on the National Health Service Litigation Authority's (NHSLA) medical negligence panel have attacked as a waste of money a controversial “gatekeeping” scheme which brings in other law firms to scrutinise their work.

The scheme was originally introduced by the NHSLA two years ago to help it slash its panel from 90 to 18, in a bid to control the NHS' spending on medical negligence claims – currently £200m per year.

The six gatekeepers analysed the work of the NHSLA's panel firms – whose quality was found to vary widely – and the authority used the information to draw up its new panel, which was revealed by The Lawyer in April.

Now the NHSLA has decided to continue the system to keep its new panel on its toes.

Announcing the main panel in a quarterly newsletter to NHS trusts, NHSLA chief executive Steve Walker said that new gatekeepers would be appointed to “analyse reports and recommendations on significant claims” prepared by the firms on the main panel.

But the continued use of gatekeepers, who include Kennedys and Trowers & Hamlin, has been criticised as an unnecessary cost to the taxpayer by some of the lawyers on the main panel.

A partner in one firm told The Lawyer that there was a significant duplication of work which created delays.

Another lawyer on the main panel described the role of gatekeepers as “irritating”.

“Surely they trust you enough if they put you on the main panel”, the source added.