Hilary Steele, Medical Protection claims lead for Ireland, describes how we have influenced change in the legal system that could benefit you.
With increases in member subscription rates, caused by the rise in the cost of clinical negligence, these are challenging times to be a doctor in Ireland.
This is why it is increasingly important that, at Medical Protection, we take an active role on behalf of you to tackle the issue and the increasing burden this is placing on both the State and members.
We work hard behind the scenes to shape policy, reforms and regulations that directly affect you on a day-to-day basis. With more than 16,000 members in Ireland – more than 2,500 of whom are GPs – and over 300,000 members worldwide, our knowledge and experience of the global medicolegal environment puts us in a strong position to advise and inform policy-makers.
It is particularly concerning that legal costs often exceed the compensation awarded to the patient. This is hard to justify and requires reform.
An efficient and predictable legal process for handling clinical negligence claims is needed and, in our 2014 report Challenging the cost of clinical negligence – the case for reform, we set out some bold but achievable recommendations that can make a real difference to the cost of claims, benefiting all parties concerned.
These include procedural reforms, to encourage greater predictability and earlier resolution of claims, and limits for compensation payable to patients.
Earlier resolution of claims
Among these reforms, we have successfully enabled the introduction of a voluntary pre-action protocol, which is a process that provides the opportunity to investigate a claim and resolve it without going to court.
The protocol is designed to encourage openness and transparency while reducing pressure on the courts, thereby allowing earlier resolution of both litigated and non-litigated claims to the benefit of all parties.
When introduced, the protocol will set out what information parties must provide to one another. Currently, we cannot compel claimant solicitors to provide the information we need in order to resolve a claim without court proceedings. This leads to delays that, understandably, are frustrating for members.
We are working closely with the State Claims Agency and four of Ireland’s leading clinical negligence claimant firms to introduce the voluntary protocol by the end of 2017. We will share our experience with the Department of Justice during the statutory consultation process to help shape the future of claims resolution in Ireland.