downloadable draft letter

<<Name>> MP
House of Commons
Dear M …………
Legal Aid Reforms – Clinical Negligence and Patient Safety
I am writing to convey my dismay at the recent proposals to cut Legal Aid for those who have
suffered injury as a result of clinical negligence.
Most people who have suffered through the negligence of health providers do not claim simply for
financial gain, they claim out of necessity in order to provide for their future requirements as a
consequence of the injuries that they have suffered. In some cases lives are changed drastically
with people being stripped of their independence. They rely on their compensation to give them
some relief from discomfort, provide help and treatment in the future, recover their loss of income,
and importantly to help them retain their dignity.
The purpose of Legal Aid is to provide access to justice for people who could not afford to pay for
representation. Access to justice for all is a basic human right and also guaranteed by the
European Convention. The suggested reforms will result in only obstetric cases being eligible for
limited assistance and this will leave many without the resources to pursue their claim. Therefore,
this must be seen as a fundamental breach of human rights.
What is often forgotten in clinical claims is the enormous cost of obtaining the forensic evidence
needed to prove the fault of the medical practitioner. A claim can only succeed if an injured person
can show that the medical care or treatment that they received fell below the standard that can be
expected of a reasonable medical practitioner. The standard of a “reasonable medical practitioner”
can only be judged by one or more medical experts. This is not a fee of the solicitor but those of
the medical experts needed to independently review every claim. It was this cost that saved
clinical claims from the previous changes to the legal aid system.
There may be other methods of funding available such as Conditional Fee Agreements and
existing legal expense cover on existing insurance policies. However, these funding
arrangements are not appropriate for everyone and given the uncertainty created by the Jackson
Reforms this will inevitably lead to gaps through which the unfortunate may fall.
To conclude, these reforms will seriously undermine access to justice and the rule of law that is the
bedrock of a civilised society - making it much more difficult for ordinary people to have recourse to
the courts to right wrongs. It may also mean that poor medical practices might not be remedied as
I would ask you as my Member of Parliament to voice my opposition to the proposed reforms in
reducing the availability of Legal Aid for the victims of clinical negligence. I would like you to
confirm to me your position in respect of the proposals and seek that you guarantee my objection
is voiced to the Justice Secretary.
In the absence of you opposing the reforms I would wish to be advised as to your plans for
ensuring patient safety in the event access to justice is restricted as proposed by the Government.
I look forward to receiving your acknowledgement of this letter and updates on the representation
that you will be making on my behalf.
Yours sincerely,