Removing legal aid from medical negligence – government make slight concession

It appears that the government have made a slight change of policy with regard to its highly controversial proposal to abolish public funding [as legal aid is now called] from all medical negligence claims.

A planned amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill allows for the retention of legal aid in what are referred to as “in obstetrics cases which result in severe disability”.

While, in general, there has been a welcome response to this minor concession, a number of observers – including the campaigning medical accident charity, Action against Medical Accidents – are querying how very limited the concession will be. We share those concerns. It’s not entirely clear why, either for practical reasons or for reasons of fairness or social justice, that a baby suffering a catastrophic traffic injury at birth due to medical negligence should be entitled to legal aid to help bring a compensation claim, whereas perhaps a one-year-old child, suffering equal injuries on account of medical negligence would be denied.

Despite this remarkably limited concession, the government appeared to remain committed to the proposals to remove 25 per cent of the compensation payments for victims of medical negligence to top up the general legal aid fund.