Caven blog

NHS pilots mediation service

The National Health Service Litigation Authority (NHS LA) has announced a pilot mediation scheme to resolve patient disputes.

Initially the scheme will be available for claims involving infant or elderly fatalities and care of the elderly.

The scheme will be carried out in partnership with the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). If the parties agree to use mediation, the claimant will be able to select a CEDR accredited independent mediator.

CEDR chief executive, Dr Karl Mackie CBE, said the pilot scheme was “one of most important in the UK and has real potential to revolutionise the way in which disputes with the NHS are resolved”.

The mediation process

Under the mediation process, an independent mediator helps the parties to come to an agreement about how the dispute should be settled. The claimants can be accompanied by family, friends or legal representatives if they wish.

If a resolution is reached (for example, regarding an amount of compensation) a binding agreement is drawn up and signed by the parties. If an agreement cannot be reached the parties have the option of going to court.

Mediation can be a practical way to resolve disputes instead of going to court. According to the CEDR, 75% of its mediations result in a satisfactory outcome within a day; and 20% settle or resolve significant elements of the dispute within 30 days.

NHS LA Chief Executive Catherine Dixon said:

“We hope that it will help patients, their families and NHS staff resolve concerns quickly and cost-effectively whilst also enabling all the parties to meet to have their say without the need to go to court”.

In addition, mediation allows for more flexible outcomes than a court case. Claimants against the NHS are often confused and embittered by the treatment they have received. The NHS LA point out that mediation can “go further than just financial compensation”.

An imbalance of power?

While the NHS LA has promoted the scheme in terms of the benefits it offers to patients; it is also likely to help cut the NHS huge legal fees and compensation bill.

Critics have pointed out that aggrieved patients with no legal representation are at a disadvantage when negotiating with a sophisticated organisation like the NHS. Paul Sankey, clinical negligence specialist at Slater & Gordon said:

“Patients and hospital staff do not meet on equal terms. Patients may have little understanding of the complex medical issues surrounding their care and if they need a legal remedy they will need legal assistance. If patients seek mediation as an alternative to seeking expert legal advice on claims they are likely to end up being sold short on their proper redress”.

The future of the scheme

The introduction of the scheme is part of a wider trend towards the use of mediation to resolve civil conflicts. The opportunity for NHS claimants to resolve cases through mediation will be a favourable alternative for some.

The CEDR must rigorously ensure the independence of its mediators and a fair process in order for the scheme to maintain its credibility and deliver just results.

Do you need advice about your legal options to resolve a dispute? Call us on 08001 221 2299 and we’ll be able to help

Click here to learn more about the benefits of using a mediator in the UK

Read more:

Law Gazette

Litigation Futures

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