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Angela Curran comments on NAO Report

Angela Curran comments on NAO Report

Angela Curran, Head of Burnetts’ Medical Negligence and Serious Injury team, comments on the National Audit Office report “Managing the costs of clinical negligence in trusts”.

Angela Curran is Head of Burnetts’ Medical Negligence and Serious Injury team at law firm Burnetts. She is an expert in the sensitive area of birth trauma cases, working extensively with children with cerebral palsy. Accredited by the Law Society for her experience in Clinical Negligence and by the patient safety charity AvMA, Angela is also a member of the Court of Appeal Mediation Panel.

During 2016 and 2017 to date, Angela and her team have settled major claims for 8 disabled children with damages totalling more than £43 million. In the majority of cases the fees are usually less than 5%.

Speaking after the publication of the National Audit Office’s report on “Managing the costs of clinical negligence in trusts”, Angela said, “There a number of reasons why there has been an increase in damages awards for negligence – it’s not all down to avaricious lawyers.

Most of my work is for disabled children who have been catastrophically injured due to negligence when they were born - the average cost of care for a severely disabled child could be in excess of £100,000 each year when the cost of special medical equipment and round the clock care is taken into account – as the cost of care rises, so will the level of damages claimed.

The decision to remove legal aid funding for all but birth trauma claims has led to an increase in cases being run on Conditional Fee Arrangements (no win / no fee arrangements ).   This means potentially that costs in some cases can be up to double what they would have been prior to its abolition.

Another factor in the increase is the advances in medicine and technology – I’ve seen an increased number of poorly babies surviving the neonatal stage, but being left with profound disabilities. The higher number of medical interventions inevitably leads to a greater risk of occurrences of negligence.

A damages payment to a severely disabled child is the very least we should be doing to look after a child who has been injured as a result of mistakes made by a state-run hospital. When a child is left with catastrophic injuries, the whole family is torn apart – the parents’ relationship often doesn’t survive, siblings can develop behavioural problems and there are often financial problems when least one of the parents has to give up work. Life for these families is a constant round of speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and hospital visits. These settlements are not lottery wins – the damages payments are carefully calculated with every penny claimed being scrutinised and justified. Usually the settlement is paid in installments into the Court of Protection  and families draw down funds for the specific purpose of care for their child.  

I welcome the suggestion to provide families affected by severe avoidable birth injuries with an alternative to lengthy court disputes, but there has to be greater willingness to accept liability earlier on in the process in order to minimise legal costs and the distress caused to families.”

Burnetts has offices in Carlisle, Penrith, Cockermouth and in Newcastle.

To arrange a press interview with Angela Curran, contact Angela Huck or Dan McAulay on 01228 552222 / 07252128762 or by email to ash@burnetts.co.uk

Published: Friday 8th September 2017
Categorised: Victoria Place , Legal Services in Newcastle, Medical Negligence, Penrith, West Cumbria

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