COVID-19: Clinical claims – guidance and support26/03/20
We have been helping clients in a number of ways in light of the unprecedented situation with the Covid-19 pandemic. We set out below examples of the support that we are giving and other useful guidance:
- Guidance from the Lord Chief Justice and the judiciary
Guidance is being released by the Lord Chief Justice on an almost daily basis. The most recent guidance can be found here. Generally the move is towards undertaking hearings remotely wherever possible and maximising the use of electronic communication. Whilst we get used to these new ways of working, the courts will expect the parties to take greater than usual steps to try to agree matters or at least to limit the number of issues to be decided at a hearing. We are working clients, experts, witnesses, Claimant firms and the courts to ensure that we can all adapt quickly to these new ways of working.
- NHS Resolution Members’ Charter
We are working with clients to maximise efficiency and streamline their internal claims processes by taking full advantage of NHS Resolution’s Members Charter, available here.
- Service of proceedings
here clients are under particular pressure, we are helping reduce workloads by arranging for legal proceedings to be served on us rather than them.
- Obtaining comments and witness statements from staff
The current pandemic is placing extra demands on clinicians’ time. We are working with them and the court to obtain appropriate extensions to the court timetable to ensure that clinicians are not unnecessarily burdened with work relating to medico-legal claims at present.
- Signing Lists of Documents and Defences
Some clients are delegating the signing of Lists of Documents and Defences to Capsticks to reduce the burden on them. We are working with our clients to establish what limits they may wish to place on our delegated authority and who may sign these documents.
- Approving admissions
We are helping clients to streamline their internal claims management processes by, for example, seeking extensions of time when liability admissions are being considered, as these often need the input of clinical staff.
- Conferences, mediation and settlement meetings
We are arranging for conferences with counsel and experts to be by telephone or video link, in order to ensure that all participants are able to take part in conferences. We are also talking to clients about how to deal with situations where input is needed from clinical staff but the current situation means that their availability is limited. The same principles apply to mediation and settlement meetings, where thorough notes can be prepared to ensure that everyone is updated as quickly as possible. We are arranging for instructions to be taken by telephone or video link where appropriate.
- Provision of medical records and imaging
We are working with organisations to overcome difficulties in complying with requests for medical records and imaging in the current circumstances by seeking extensions to deadlines where needed.
If the court decides to conduct a contested clinical negligence trial with factual and/or expert witnesses by video-link, we will of course liaise closely with you to discuss necessary arrangements and minimise the impact on clinical and other staff.
- Indemnity for returning staff, students and volunteers
NHS Resolution says “... the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts (CNST) will also cover retired healthcare workers who return to work for NHS trusts...we recognise that there will be a need for changes to working arrangements during this emergency period. We do not want indemnity to be a barrier to such changes. The Government is therefore planning to introduce additional indemnity coverage for clinical negligence liabilities that may arise when healthcare workers and others are working as part of the COVID-19 response, or undertaking NHS work to backfill others, in the event that existing arrangements (CNST, CNSGP or individual arrangements) do not cover a particular activity." in their COVID-19 and business continuity guidance. The Coronavirus Act 2020 sets out the proposed indemnity provisions for returning staff, students and volunteers providing care in respect of a person who has, or is suspected of having, coronavirus disease.
- Communicating with us
We are committed to working proactively with clients during the current pandemic to keep the legal claims process moving and resolving claims without placing any additional pressure on those delivering care. All of our lawyers at Capsticks are now working remotely. The primary means of communication with us will need to be by email and/or telephone (usual numbers apply and are forwarded to mobiles). Please try and avoid sending anything in hard form or, if this is unavoidable, contact us in advance so we can discuss how it is best done.
If you would like more information on any of the above guidance, or how we can support your organisation, please speak to Cassius Box or Philip Hatherall.