Medical negligence payments: One rule for patients and a whole different set of rules for the NHSLA?
My last blog dealt with the injustice and expense caused to injured patients and the NHS by the conduct of the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA). Sadly the NHSLA continues to deal with cases apparently unconcerned by the wrath of those of us who represent patients or even the criticisms of the Court.
As described in my previous blog, a while ago I had an application for an interim payment for a client who was rendered blind by medical negligence. Leave aside the length of time it took for the NHSLA to admit the obvious, during which time my client lived in unsuitable conditions. Leave aside the battle over the size of the payment when they finally agreed to pay following an application to court.
The matter came before the court. The NHSLA say that they need 4 weeks to make the payment. The rules say payment within 14 days. Despite this we say we will agree 21 days. The NHSLA say 28 days is “non-negotiable”. We point out that this is for the Court to decide not the NHSLA.
At the hearing an Order is made – payment “BY the 2nd April” (21 days after the hearing and the Thursday before Good Friday). The bank system for electronic payment stops around 4 – 4:30 pm so payment is to be made by then. No sign of payment in the morning so an email is sent at 10:30. I confirm that the solicitors should advise the NHSLA that we will apply to court again if payment is not made in accordance with the Order.
At 5:15 long after the banks have closed up shop and gone home for Easter, an email is received. Apparently the NHSLA have “approved” our client’s payment (ordered by the Court”) and this is “in the process of being paid also”.
What exactly does that mean – what is “in the process of being paid”? This is the Easter weekend. The banks are not open again until Tuesday. My client has a four day holiday period without funds because the NHSLA is doing some “process” to enable it to do late what a court has ordered it to do.
If I decided to ignore a court order on the basis that I would sort it out soon (when it was more convenient) I am certain the Court would be critical. I am quite sure the NHSLA would raise it at the earliest opportunity. However apparently the NHSLA are happy to flout the court order. It doesn’t appear that they care whether they comply with Orders and rules or not.
Perhaps, I hear the more reasonable say, they thought that the order was to start the bank process by the 2nd. A misunderstanding at the hearing. No sadly not. At the hearing it was argued and the Judge made clear – payment by 2nd April 21 days after the hearing. The Order is clear. The Judge could not have been clearer short of tattooing this part of the Order on the head of the NHSLA barrister. The Order was sent to them. Their barrister attended. An email reminder was sent.
Perhaps an internet villain has got into the computer of the NHSLA or the accounts department have had a sudden significant illness? No – we receive other payments (some also late) so we know the system is working.
No the truth is the NHSLA don’t care whether the Court orders payment by a certain date. It is easier to ignore them than pay.
It is only a few days (perhaps), some of you might say. After all the time waiting a few days won’t make a difference. But my client is about to be made homeless. My client needs a home. Why should she not be able to move into somewhere suitable for the Easter holidays? Why should she not have a holiday period without worry living somewhere wholly unsuitable? Why are her needs so unimportant compared to the financial convenience/process of the NHSLA when it was the NHS which caused her blindness?
As it is if the payment arrives after Easter it will be almost the 28 days which the NHSLA were determined to have in the first place. In essence they are doing exactly what they want regardless of the court’s decision.
The whole point of the justice system is that the Judge has the right to make Orders the rest of us have to comply or apply to change the order. We are all lawyers. We know how the system works. Apparently this rule doesn’t apply to the NHSLA.
Whatever your view of claims against the NHS – the fact remains. If you were in a claim would you want your opponent to disregard the court without apparently any concern? What is in charge here? Money or law?