NHS mediation service announced

The body responsible for handling clinical negligence claims made against the NHS, the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), has heralded the launch of an independent mediation service.

The voluntary scheme is intended to accelerate the resolution of claims against health authorities and will be operated in partnership with the Centre for Dispute Resolution (CEDR).

By providing the Claimant and NHS representatives with a framework to discuss the matter in person, the NHSLA intend to resolve more claims faster and at a lower cost to either side. Catherine Dixon, Chief Executive of the NHSLA, said that this mediation enables the parties to "meet and have their say without the need to go to Court".

" We hope that it will help patients, their families and NHS staff resolve concerns quickly and cost-effectively."

The NHSLA have recognised the importance of dialogue in facilitating a satisfactory resolution for both sides, though non-financial outcomes such as an explanation and an apology. Friends and family can be brought to mediation to support the Claimant. The Claimant is offered their choice of accredited mediator and can also invite a solicitor if they wish.

For the period of 2013/14, the NHS has spent over £1.1bn on clinical negligence claims. £259m of that amount (22%) was spent on Claimants' legal fees, contrasted with £92m (8%) spent on solicitors' fees to defend against these claims. The new mediation service is intended to reduce these legal costs, without compromising the rights and compensation to which Claimants are entitled.

Chief Executive of the CEDR, Dr Karl Mackie CBE, hailed the scheme's "real potential to revolutionise the way in which disputes with the NHS are resolved".

" Of the many mediation initiatives CEDR has worked on in the last two decades this must count as one of most important in the UK."

The NHSLA have argued that mediation has been shown to be a highly effective means of resolving disputes. In their announcement, the authority quoted figures stating that 75% of mediations result in a satisfactory outcome. Often these resolutions are reached in a single day.

The legal rights of Claimants who opt to proceed with mediation will remain intact, and the matter can still proceed to Court if either party is dissatisfied with the outcome.

[Source: http://www.nhsla.com/CurrentActivity/Documents/Press%20Release%20-%20Mediation%20service%20launch.pdf]