The National Health Service has launched a massive push to significantly reduce legal costs and arrive at earlier settlements by swapping litigation for mediation.
Up to £300,000 can be saved per case by taking the mediation rather than litigation route. An average of £10,000-£50,000 can be saved per case.
The NHS has pledged to strive towards reducing the cost of disputes by at least 5 per cent during the next two years. Currently, less than 1 per cent of cases go to mediation.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Group and InterMediation, which have formed a strategic alliance to promote and facilitate the project, hope that in the long-run, it will significantly reduce the £4bn currently spent in cases on compensation, costs and legal fees.
The Law Society's representative body for 11,000 in-house lawyers, the Commerce and Industry Group, has voted in favour of taking part in a similar scheme. The two mediation groups hope to reduce the volume of litigation outsourced by in-house counsel to external firms by 10 per cent in two years.
|“Our message to lawyers in firms is that if they can settle one out of 15 cases through mediation then they can still get fees from other cases”
Michael Lind, ADR Group
Michael Lind, a lawyer at the ADR Group, said: “We can offer a national representative structure containing skilled advisers at any level using local mediators. Matters, therefore, can be kept local, rather than having to be sent to big regional centres and London.”
Although the campaign has won the approval of in-house and NHS lawyers, the two mediation groups face the task of winning over lawyers in firms who face a substantial drop in the volume of work. A national publicity campaign to win them over is being prepared.
Lind said: “Our message to lawyers in firms is that if they can settle one out of 15 cases through mediation then they can still get fees from other cases that may not be appropriate for mediation.”
The move by the NHS has won the seal of approval from the head of the NHS Litigation Authority, Steven Walker. This is an important step at a time when the volume of claims against doctors are on the increase and elements of the NHS are resorting to prioritising patients who pay for their services to cut costs.
In the past, the Government has pointed to the soaking up of extra Treasury cash during Budgets in handling litigation costs and compensation pay-outs.