Dental Protection: fixed recoverable costs scheme must benefit dentistry

25 April 2022
1 min read

Dental Protection has welcomed proposals to limit the legal costs that can be recovered by claimant lawyers for lower value clinical negligence claims, but believes more could be done to ensure such a scheme benefits dentistry.

A Department of Health and Social Care consultation proposes tackling “increasing and disproportionate legal fees” through the introduction of fixed recoverable costs and a new streamlined process for claims up to the value of £25,000 in England and Wales.

In its response to the consultation, Dental Protection said it fully supported the introduction of a fixed recoverable costs scheme but said the scheme could be made more meaningful for dentistry if it considered cases up to the value of £250,000.

The indemnifier cited one case of an alleged failure to diagnose a palatal cyst (UL3 area), where damages were agreed in the sum of £15,000. The original Bill of Costs submitted was however for £93,043.65. Costs were substantially reduced by negotiation to £30,000 however, this figure was twice the amount of damages paid.

Steven Davies, head of legal services at Dental Protection, said, “It is not unusual for the costs awarded to claimant lawyers to be significantly higher than the damages paid to the patient – sometimes it could be two or three times higher. This happens even where claims are settled at an early stage. This cannot be right, and we have long called for a fixed recoverable costs scheme to be introduced.

“It is important however that any scheme is designed to benefit dentistry where this is a significant issue.

“Whilst a scheme for claims up to the value of £25,000 would be a positive step, it does not go far enough. We believe that a fixed recoverable costs scheme should be applied in claims up to the value of £250,000, providing a more cost-effective scheme fit for the future of the profession.

“Given the impact that legal costs have on the price that dental professionals pay to protect themselves against claims, it is vital that any fixed costs regime introduced has a positive impact and is not a wasted opportunity.”