The NHS mediation scheme
The National Health Service Litigation Authority (NHSLA) (which is responsible for dealing with claims against NHS hospitals) has announced details of a pilot mediation scheme to speed up the process of resolving claims.
What is covered?
From July 2014 the NHSLA will offer mediation in all suitable cases involving a fatality (eg. unexpectedly following surgery) or elderly care (eg. injury caused due to a hospital fall).
What can I expect?
The service is designed to support patients, families and NHS staff in working together to resolve claims at an early stage. The Scheme will be independent and voluntary and is designed to ‘go further than just financial compensation’, offering non-financial outcomes such as apologies or explanations.
Patients or the bereaved will be offered the choice of an accredited mediator and can bring friends or family to provide support in person on the day of mediation.
The mediator will help the parties in reaching an agreement. If the parties are able to agree a way forward, a written, binding agreement is drawn up.
What are the benefits and risks?
If successful, it can lead to an early resolution of a complaint and a potential claim with considerable saving in costs.
In cases where the monetary value is limited (such as certain types of claim involving elderly care), mediation may provide a better outcome than going to court in such cases, particularly if it involves an acknowledgement that mistakes were made.
However, it is very probable that one of the conditions of the agreement will include the patients or families giving up the right to go to court in the future. It is therefore crucial that the parties are fully aware of their legal rights before they engage in mediation and are able to have access to independent legal advice where necessary.
The Scheme allows for a lawyer to attend the mediation on behalf of the patient or family although this is not mandatory. It is not clear from the details available which party is responsible for these costs but in practice they could be met by the NHS Trust and form part of any settlement agreement.
NHS mediation advice
If you have any questions about the NHS Mediation Scheme please contact us online or call 01803 403403 for a free and confidential consultation.
The NHSLA leaflet about the Mediation Scheme is available here.