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Challenging Hospital Closures The NHS in England – Structure

Save Our Hospital

 

Michael Imperato of Watkins & Gunn Solicitors considers the complex structure of the health service in England. This is particularly important for people seeking to challenge the Health service. Michael has experience in acting for communities challenging hospital closures and for individuals with clinical negligence claims.   

 

In England, the NHS is structured along the lines of an internal market. This means there is a separation between the purchaser and the provider of care, and business or market practices are part of how NHS organisations work. Control was to be devolved from the Secretary of State and NHS managers, to professionals and patients.

Major reforms to the structure of the health service in England were introduced by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, with many provisions under the Act coming into force on 1 April 2013.

 

The Secretary of State for Health

 

The Secretary of State has overall responsibility for the work of the Department of Health (DH). He/she has responsibility:

 

  • for the business and policies of the department, including financial control
  • oversight of all NHS delivery and performance

 

He/she also leads on all aspects of mental health and championing patient safety.

 

The Department of Health                                             

The DH is responsible for strategic leadership and funding for both health and social care in England. The DH is a ministerial department, supported by a number of agencies and public bodies. It creates national policy and legislation. It (and the Secretary of State) is accountable to Parliament. The work of this department is mostly scrutinised by the House of Commons’ Health Committee.

 

Public Health England                                                                               

PHE is an executive agency of the Department of Health, and a distinct delivery organisation with operational autonomy to advise and support government, local authorities and the NHS in a professionally independent manner. Its role is to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities.

 

PHE are responsible for:

 

  • making the public healthier by encouraging discussions, advising government and supporting action by local government, the NHS and other people and organisations
  • supporting the public so they can protect and improve their own health
  • protecting the nation’s health through the national health protection service, and preparing for public health emergencies
  • sharing our information and expertise with local authorities, industry and the NHS, to help them make improvements in the public’s health
  • researching, collecting and analyzing data to improve our understanding of health and come up with answers to public health problems
  • reporting on improvements in the public’s health so everyone can understand the challenge and the next steps
  • helping local authorities and the NHS to develop the public health system and its specialist workforce

 

NHS England                                                                                                                                                                         

NHS England is an independent body, at arm’s length to the government. Its main role is to set the priorities and direction of the NHS and to improve health and care outcomes for people in England. NHS England manages around £100 billion of the overall NHS budget and ensures that organisations are spending the allocated funds effectively.

 

NHS England is the commissioner for primary care services such as GPs, pharmacists and dentists, including military health services and some specialised services. It also supports local health services that are led by groups of GPs called Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). NHS England allocates funding to the 200+ CCGs, and holds CCGs to account. NHS England also commissions some services itself including specialised services, primary care, offender healthcare and some services for the armed forces. CCGs in turn, commission NHS Trusts, NHS Foundation Trusts and primary care providers.

 

The NHS England Board consists of a Chair and eight non-executive directors and four voting executive directors.

 

Four regional teams regions cover healthcare commissioning and delivery in their area and provide professional leadership on finance, nursing, medical, specialised commissioning, patients and information, human resources, organisational development, assurance and delivery. Regional teams work closely with organisations such as CCGs, local authorities, health and wellbeing boards as well as GP practices.

 

            North of England regional team

            Midlands and East of England regional team

            London regional team

            South of England regional team

 

 

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)                                

CCGs replaced primary care trusts (PCTs) on April 1 2013. CCGs are clinically led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of healthcare services for their local area. CCG members include GPs and other clinicians, such as nurses and consultants. They are responsible for about 60% of the NHS budget, commission most secondary care services, and play a part in the commissioning of GP services. The secondary care services commissioned by CCGs are:

 

  • planned hospital care 
  • rehabilitative care
  • urgent and emergency care (including out-of-hours and NHS 111)
  • most community health services
  • mental health services and learning disability services

CCGs can commission any service provider that meets NHS standards and costs. These can be NHS hospitals, social enterprises, charities or private sector providers. However, they must be assured of the quality of services they commission, taking into account both National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines and the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) data about service providers.

 

Both NHS England and CCGs have a duty to involve their patients, carers and the public in decisions about the services they commission. Commissioning is about getting the best possible health outcomes for the local population, by assessing local needs, deciding priorities and strategies, and then buying services on behalf of the population from providers such as hospitals, clinics, community health bodies, etc. It is an ongoing process, and CCGs must constantly respond and adapt to changing local circumstances. CCGs are responsible for the health of their entire population, and are measured by how much they improve outcomes.

 

CCGs are Membership bodies, with local GP practices as the members; they are led by an elected Governing Body made up of GPs, other clinicians including a nurse and a secondary care consultant, and lay members. CCG’s are independent, and accountable to the Secretary of State for Health through NHS England. They are responsible for the health of populations ranging from under 100,000 to 900,000, although the average population covered by a CCG is about a quarter of a million people.

 

Health and wellbeing boards                                                             

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 establishes health and wellbeing boards as a forum where key leaders from the health and care system work together to improve the health and wellbeing of their local population and reduce health inequalities. Health and wellbeing board members will collaborate to understand their local community's needs, agree priorities and encourage commissioners to work in a more joined-up way.

 

They have a statutory duty, with CCGs, to produce a joint strategic needs assessment and a joint health and wellbeing strategy for their local population.

 

The boards have very limited formal powers. They are constituted as a partnership forum rather than an executive decision-making body.

In most cases, health and wellbeing boards are chaired by a senior local authority elected member. The board must include a representative of each relevant CCG and local Healthwatch, as well as local authority representatives.

In principle, the areas of local CCGs should not normally cross those of local authorities without good reason.

The principal responsibilities of HWBs are:

  • Producing joint strategic needs assessments (JSNAs): JSNAs are assessments of the current and future health and social care needs of the whole of the local population. HWBs must consult with the local community when producing the JSNA and should take into account a broad range of issues, including demographics, the particular needs of disadvantaged or vulnerable groups and wider social, environmental and economic factors which might impact on health and wellbeing. The JSNA must be taken into account by local authorities, CCGs and NHS England when preparing or revising commissioning plans.
  • Producing joint health and wellbeing strategies (JHWS): JHWSs are strategies for meeting the local health needs identified in the JSNA. Like JSNAs, JHWSs must be taken into account by local authorities, CCGs and NHS England when preparing or revising commissioning plans.
  • Oversight of CCG commissioning plans: CCGs must liaise with the HWB when preparing or making significant revisions to their commissioning plans, and provide the HWB with a draft plan. The HWB opinion on the final plan must be published with the commissioning plan. The HWB can refer the plan to NHS England if it thinks the JHWS is not being taken account of properly and must be consulted by NHS England when the annual performance of each CCG is drawn up.

 

Hospital Trusts                                                                        

 

In 2013 the NHS underwent a fundamental restructure system there was a wide range of NHS trusts – such as acute trusts, ambulance trusts, and mental health trusts – that managed NHS hospital care in England, including community care and mental health services.

 

Today most of these services are provided through NHS foundation trusts and NHS trusts providing ambulance services, emergency care services, or mental health services.

 

Most hospitals in England are now managed by NHS foundation trusts. First introduced in April 2004, they differ from other existing NHS trusts. They are independent legal entities and have unique governance arrangements. They are also accountable to local people, who can become members and governors.

 

Each NHS foundation trust has a duty to consult and involve a board of governors – including patients, staff, members of the public, and partner organisations – in the strategic planning of the organisation. They are set free from central government control and are no longer performance-managed by health authorities. As self-standing, self-governing organisations, NHS foundation trusts are free to determine their own future. They have financial freedom and can raise capital from both the public and private sectors within borrowing limits, determined by projected cash flows, and are therefore based on affordability. They can retain financial surpluses to invest in the delivery of new NHS services. Foundation trusts are overseen by NHS Improvement.

 

Some hospitals in England are managed by acute trusts, some of which have also gained foundation trust status.  Acute trusts ensure that hospitals provide high-quality healthcare. They also decide how a hospital will develop so services improve.  Some acute trusts are regional or national centres for more specialised care, while others are attached to universities and help train health professionals. Acute trusts can also provide services in the community – for example, through health centres, clinics, or in people's homes.

 

Improvement                                                                                 

 

Founded in 2016, NHS Improvement is an umbrella organisation bringing together Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority, Patient Safety, the National Reporting and Learning System, the Advancing Change Team, and the Intensive Support Teams. It oversees and supports NHS foundation trusts, NHS trusts and independent providers delivering NHS-funded care. If necessary, it holds them to account – for example, putting trusts on special measures

  

Healthwatch England                                                          

 

Healthwatch England was established as an effective, independent consumer champion for health and social care. It also provides a leadership and support role for the local Healthwatch network.

 

GPs and the NHS                                                                                 

 

GP practices are run effectively as small businesses, which are contracted by NHS England. Contracts are held by the practice rather than individual GPs. The funding formula for individual practices is extremely complex.

 

Regulation – safeguarding people’s interests    

                    

Responsibility for regulating particular aspects of care is now shared across a number of different bodies, such as:

 

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. For more information contact Watkins & Gunn Solicitors on 02921 154313 or visit to our website www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tougher new penalties for drivers using mobile phones

 

 

Amy Thomas, of Watkins & Gunn Solicitors, considers the new increased penalties for using a mobile phone while driving. 

 

From 1st March 2017 penalties for using a mobile phone while driving will double. In more serious cases, police can also prosecute drivers for careless or dangerous driving.

 

Since 1 December 2003, it has been illegal to use a hand held phone or similar device whilst driving a motor vehicle or riding a motor cycle. However, despite this, the chances are that at some stage, we will all have seen another motorist using their mobile phone when queuing in traffic or driving. This has understandably led to growing concerns that this offence is not being taken sufficiently seriously and the current penalties are not a sufficient deterrent. It is hoped that harsher penalties will create a shift in attitude, similar to that seen with drink driving and the use of seatbelts.

 

 

Previously motorists would face a penalty of three points and a £100 fine but, as of 1 March 2017, the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (Penalty Points) Amendment Order 2016 will come into force in England, Scotland and Wales. Any motorist then caught using their mobile phone whilst driving will automatically receive six points and a £200 fine.

 

 

In the first two years of holding a licence, new drivers can only receive a maximum of six points, therefore these changes mean new drivers run the risk of immediately losing their licence. Repeat offenders may also have to appear in Court if they are caught a second time. In addition, they could face a fine of £1,000 and receive a six month driving ban.

 

 

The definition of use, is not limited to just answering a call, it also extends to sending a text message, following a map or scrolling through social media on your mobile phone. 

 

Over recent years, there have been an increasing number of severe and fatal accidents caused by motorists using their mobile phones. As a result, the Government has announced that the penalties are to be increased. Motorists will no longer be offered the opportunity to go on a driver awareness course once the new legislation comes into force.

 

If you require any advice or assistance in relation to motoring offences, please do not hesitate to contact our Road Traffic Law Department on 01495 768921.

 

 

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. For more information contact Watkins & Gunn Solicitors on 01633 262122 or visit to our website www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk

 

 

 

Ban on Letting Agents Fees

 

Caitlin Tew of Watkins & Gunn Solicitors reports on the Government’s plans to impose a ban on excessive letting agent fees.

 

During the Autumn Statement in 2016, the Chancellor announced plans to ban letting agent fees. It is hoped that a consultation will soon take place in order to impose a ban.

 

Many letting agents simply charge tenants the cost of items such as checking references, but other, more unscrupulous agents, impose extra charges on the checks that they carry out, and for administrative work in preparing contracts and inventories. It is these additional charges that will be targeted by the Government with the aim of reducing the amount of fees paid by tenants to the agents.

 

Agents have been accused of taking advantage of the housing crisis to squeeze extra money from people desperate to secure accommodation. Citizens Advice Bureau figures, based on a survey of tenants,  suggest the average letting agent fee has risen by 60% over the last 5 years with some asked to pay up to £700.

 

A clampdown of such excessive fees will serve as a welcome relief for many in private rented accommodation. However, there is a danger that imposing such a ban may lead to rent prices increasing as agents may shift their fees on to landlords, who, in turn, may then increase the price of rent for the tenant.

 

The ban has already been imposed in Scotland, but there is no confirmed date for the ban in England and Wales yet, but Chancellor Hammond said it would be introduced "as soon as possible". So we await further news as they work towards implementing a ban.

 

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. For more information contact Watkins & Gunn Solicitors on 01633 262122 or visit to our website www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk

 

 

Government’s whiplash reforms are an own goal

 

 

Clive Thomas, Managing Partner of Watkins and Gunn, comments on the Government’s recent announcement on whiplash claims.

 

The Government has announced Part one of their response to reforming the whiplash claims process. They intend raising the small claims limit for road traffic accident injury cases from £1,000 to £5,000 and raising it to £2,000 for all other types of injury claim. It hopes to introduce these reforms as soon as October 2018.

 

In addition they intend -

•              introducing fixed tariffs to cap the amount of damages for compensation claims.

•              Banning on offers to settle claims without providing medical evidence.

 

It does represent a slight retreat from the original proposal to increase the small claims limit to £5,000 for all types of injury claim.

 

The stated intention of the reforms is to get a "grip" on compensation claims and reduce insurance premiums for motorists, by what they hope will be £40 per year - even though the reforms made to date have produced no such savings. However, many believe that their reforms are a missed opportunity and an own goal.

 

The Government appear to have fixated on the amount of damages an accident victim can claim, and have failed to introduce a ban on cold calling or texting, which is so prevalent in the claims industry, or to plan to properly regulate claims management companies. Solicitors are, rightly, banned from making cold calls and sending nuisance text messages but claims management companies are not. The Small Claims Court is designed for consumer disputes and for people to represent themselves and, as a result, only very limited legal costs can be awarded. However, the proposed increase creates such an inequality of arms, between an accident victim and a large insurance company and their skilled lawyers that many people will simply not want, or be capable of, dealing with a claim without assistance. Claims management companies see this as a real opportunity to get even more involved. As a result it is feared that far from getting a "grip" they may in fact have fuelled the claims industry. They have also failed to address expensive motor repairs and repeated hikes in insurance premium tax, which are both major factors in the cost of motor insurance premiums.

 

APIL (the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) predict that there will be an "explosion" in unsolicited calls and texts from claims management companies encouraging people to make claims - even potentially fraudulent ones.

 

Added to that is that the fixed tariff system of compensation will result in innocent accident victims being squeezed on both sides. On one hand being under compensated for their claims and then, to add insult to their injuries, having to pay a percentage of their already reduced compensation to a claims management company, if they are tempted to use one (or a lawyer if they decide to seek professional assistance).

 

So there is considerable concern that the changes may actually increase claims and insurance premiums, whilst reducing the rights and compensation for innocent accident victims. The reforms will require primary legislation as well as secondary. The Government intend it will form part of the Prisons and Courts Bill and they hope to implement the changes as from 1st October 2018.

 

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. For more information contact Watkins & Gunn Solicitors on 01633 262122 or visit to our website www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

"The Archers" highlights the issue of Domestic Abuse

 

The media has been abuzz with the fictional trial of Helen Titchener on the popular radio programme "The Archers". For those who have not followed it, she has been on trial for stabbing her husband Rob, and was found not guilty of both attempted murder or wounding with intent. The jury finally concluded that, after years of undergoing coercion, control, rape and assault at the hands of her husband, she believed her actions were justified in preventing further harm to herself and her young son, Henry.

 

The storyline has highlighted the very real problems that many people face in their relationships, where often they face not only actual violence but also threatening and controlling behaviour resulting in psychological and emotional abuse that stops short of physical violence. 

 

Too many victims suffer in silence, because of  the degree of control that is exerted over them. Last year new legislation created an offence where there is evidence of repeated 'controlling or coercive behaviour' in domestic abuse cases.  The penalty  is up to five years in prison. Controlling or coercive behaviour can include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation.  It can also include stopping the victim wearing what they like, socialising with who they wish to, tracking them through their phone or internet use and controlling what they do or say on Facebook and other social media accounts.

 

The first step for any victim is recognising that they are a victim of domestic abuse and the next is to seek help. Victims often struggle with this  because they believe they are to blame for the things they are suffering which is part of the control.

 

No-one should have to live in a household where they feel threatened or are being hurt. Many victims cannot safely look for this information online. However, there are a number of places to turn for help, information and support: a GP or Health Visitor, the police, and organisations such as Refuge and Women’s Aid and other such fantastic organisations who do so much. Expert legal advice is also critical and victims should consider speaking to a solicitor who specialises in domestic violence cases (see www.resolution.org.uk for details of such solicitors near you). 

 

 

 

 

Lasting Powers Of Attorney – an essential guide

  

It is difficult to imagine being in a situation where we will not have total control over our own affairs. Sadly, the reality is anyone of any age can have an accident, suffer an unexpected illness or develop dementia and lose their ability to manage their own affairs.

 

In many ways, making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is like taking out an insurance policy - we hope that we will never need to use, it but there is peace of mind knowing it is in place should anything go wrong.

 

There are two types of LPA. The first deals with your financial affairs, such as your property and money, and the other with your health and welfare, such as where you live and what care you should receive. You can choose to make one or both. Importantly you decide who you would like to appoint as your Attorney/s.

 

Many people are under the misconception that if you lose your mental capacity then your loved ones can just step in and deal with your affairs. Unfortunately, that is not the case, unless an LPA is in place. Without a valid LPA, your assets are likely to be frozen and your loved ones may need to apply to the Court for an Order to become a Deputy. This is a slow and expensive process, involving increased legal and court fees. In addition, there are often both annual supervision fees and security bond fees to pay.

 

It is important to remember that you can only make a LPA whilst you have mental capacity. If you contact a specialist lawyer, you can make an LPA quickly and relatively cheaply and avoid running the risk of leaving your family with a potentially expensive and time consuming problem.

 

Watkins and Gunn are currently offering two LPA’s for £500 + VAT*, a saving of £300 off our normal fees until 30th November 2016.

 

(*Court Fee and Bankruptcy searches may apply) 

 

 

 

Dental Negligence - don't be brushed off!

Caitlin Tew, of Watkins and Gunn Solicitors, explains what can happen when dental treatment goes wrong. 

For many, just the thought of going to the dentist can bring shivers down the spine, but for some it really is an experience that they will never wish to relive again.

Although we are fortunate in having so many excellent dental professionals in the UK, mistakes can happen and when they do the results can be devastating. When medical accidents are made, this area of law is called clinical negligence and when it occurs in dentistry it it is called Dental Negligence. 

Dental negligence can have a number of repercussions; these include financial loss for the cost of revision dental work, unnecessary pain and psychological trauma. Everyone has the right to a high standard of care so we’re here to help if you feel you’ve received negligent treatment.

Some of the more common injuries that can be caused by dental negligence include for example, the wrong tooth being removed and anaesthetic not being administered properly. However more serious issues  include problems with root canal treatment, long term nerve injuries and cosmetic dentistry problems. The most serious cases may involve oral mouth cancer.

Injuries do not always have to be physical in nature and the psychological implications of receiving negligent treatment can be just as damaging. There has been recent cases in the local media where it has come to light that a dentist, in Splott in Cardiff, had not always followed good practice whilst giving treatment which resulted in patients being placed at risk of infections from other patients. Patients were assured that there was a very low risk of transfer of infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, but the thought of such a risk of harm can cause stress and anxiety and psychological trauma, and in these circumstances a patient may be entitled to compensation. 

So if you have experienced an issue with your dentist our clinical negligence team at Watkins and Gunn Solicitors can help. Contact us today on 01633 262122.

Caitlin Tew, of Watkins and Gunn Solicitors, explains what can happen when dental treatment goes wrong. 

For many, just the thought of going to the dentist can bring shivers down the spine, but for some it really is an experience that they will never wish to relive again.

Although we are fortunate in having so many excellent dental professionals in the UK, mistakes can happen and when they do the results can be devastating. When medical accidents are made, this area of law is called clinical negligence and when it occurs in dentistry it it is called Dental Negligence. 

Dental negligence can have a number of repercussions; these include financial loss for the cost of revision dental work, unnecessary pain and psychological trauma. Everyone has the right to a high standard of care so we’re here to help if you feel you’ve received negligent treatment.

Some of the more common injuries that can be caused by dental negligence include for example, the wrong tooth being removed and anaesthetic not being administered properly. However more serious issues  include problems with root canal treatment, long term nerve injuries and cosmetic dentistry problems. The most serious cases may involve oral mouth cancer.

Injuries do not always have to be physical in nature and the psychological implications of receiving negligent treatment can be just as damaging. There has been recent cases in the local media where it has come to light that a dentist, in Splott in Cardiff, had not always followed good practice whilst giving treatment which resulted in patients being placed at risk of infections from other patients. Patients were assured that there was a very low risk of transfer of infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, but the thought of such a risk of harm can cause stress and anxiety and psychological trauma, and in these circumstances a patient may be entitled to compensation. 

So if you have experienced an issue with your dentist our clinical negligence team at Watkins and Gunn Solicitors can help. Contact us today on 01633 262122.

Time to fight for the rights of accident victims!

Clive Thomas, Managing Partner of Watkins & Gunn Solicitors, considers the Government's planned reforms to  personal injury and clinical negligence claims. 

The Government have continued to attack access to justice for the victims of accidents. They seem determined to make life harder for them.  

Personal injury Claims  

They have announced plans to - 

• To introduce measures to remove the right to cash compensation for minor whiplash injuries, and 

• To reduce legal costs by transferring injury claims of up to £5,000 to the small claims track. It is not entirely clear if the proposed increase to the small claims track will be limited to motor injury claims. 

The briefing material issued by Treasury states their aim : “The government is determined to crack down on the fraud and claims culture in motor insurance.” The Government  says it is attack on the right to representation for all road accident victims will save the insurers £1 billion – but, they have admitted they will not force insurers to pass on savings to motorists, simply that they ‘expect’ them to do so.

The Government continually refers to a ‘fraud and claims culture in motor insurance’ - but it has produced no independent evidence to support this. In fact its own reports have found that there is no compensation culture at all. Their reports have concluded that it is a problem of perception – in other words a myth. It is a myth that is perpetuated by the tabloid media. 

At the APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) conference in Birmingham this year, Lord Faulks, QC, the Minister of State for Justice. He confirmed that the Government plans to plough ahead with their reforms to personal injury claims. He referred to lower value claims as “unnecessary”, and gave the impression that those suffering with those often painful and debilitating injuries should not be allowed to claim damages for their pain and suffering at all. Anyone who has had such an injury knows just how painful and debilitating it can be. Compensation is about putting the injured person, so far as money can, in the position they would have been in if the accident had not occurred. It is not about the victim gaining a profit or a cash windfall from the accident.

In 2013 the Government said the time was not right to raise the small claims limit, because of the risk that it may deter access to justice for genuinely injured people, and the risk that such a move may encourage the growth of disreputable claims firms. It proposed deferring any increase until safeguards against these unintended consequences were in place. In the same year, the Government expressed concerns to the Transport Select Committee that raising the small claims limit at that time could have the detrimental effect of under-settling of claims. As far as we are aware, none of these issues have been addressed or safe guards put in place, so why the Government is proposing the change now?

The vast majority of personal injury cases are worth £5,000 or less. So if the Government increases the small claims court limit to £5,000, will mean most people will have to make very difficult choices: to represent themselves in an unequal struggle against the defendant insurers’ lawyers; instruct their own lawyer at their own expense; or abandon the claim altogether and receive no justice and the person whose negligence caused the injury will get away scot-free.

The new APIL President, Neil Sugarman, branded the Government’s plans as 'baseless' and 'frustrating' and pointed out that their own figures show us that whiplash claims are falling and a whole raft of reforms have already been introduced to reduce costs and help prevent fraud.

He also said that Ethelbert the King of Kent, recognised the right to payment for bodily injury in the 10th Century so why doesn’t the government do so now in the 21st century! Many believe whilst the raising of the small claims limit does not require primary legislation, the removal of the courts’ power to compensate for negligence will require an Act of Parliament.

Medical negligence 

The Government have also announced that they intend toconsult on fixing legal costs in medical negligence, thereby cutting the fees available to lawyers who help injured.

We are proud of our NHS, and the majority of patients get an excellent level of care and treatment. There are occasions, however, when things can go wrong and mistakes are made and the consequences can be devastating. Patients have every right to be able to put their trust in the NHS but, when the NHS is negligent and needless injury results, they have a rightto pursue compensation to help put their lives back on track.

Government proposals would mean their ability to do this will be severely curtailed and this is unacceptable. Medical claims are complex and require specialised lawyers with real expertise and fees must be set at a level which allows lawyers to do the work. Failure to do this will mean the work will be conducted by inexperienced practitioners. This will mean that issues will be missed, claims with poor prospects will not be stopped at source and larger claims won’t be handled properly, generating higher costs for the NHS and impactingheavily on the injured patient.

According to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, nearly half a million people are harmed unnecessarily every year in the NHS. This is the heart of the problem - this causes sufferingto patients and their families and a financial cost to the NHS. Attention should be focussed on cutting these mistakes rather than focussing on legal fees.

It is time to fight back. Don’t let a Government, more concerned with keeping the insurance industry on-side and balancing their books than helping injured people, succeed in taking away our access to justice, and with it rights that we have enjoyed for hundreds of years.  

 For further information on personal injury or clinical negligence claims call 01633 241160 

A Guide to the “bad and devisive” Trade Union Act 2016

Michael Imperato, Partner at Watkins & Gunn Solicitors considers the impact of the Trade Union Act. 

Despite waves of opposition to block the passing of the bill, The Trade Union Act came in to force on 4 May 2016. Prior to the passing of the Act, it had been described by trade union members as unlawful, unwarranted and unworkable with the proposed changes making it seemingly impossible to comply with the provisions.

TUC general secretary Frances O’ Grady said “The history books will show that the Government’s first major act of this Parliament has been to attack the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.”

Not all of the provisions have come in to force. The majority of them are expected to come in to force later this year but some provisions may also be delayed until the start of 2017. 

Key Components of the Act 

• Industrial action will only be lawful when there has been a ballot turn out of at least 50%.  

• In “important public services”, including health, education and transport, an additionalthreshold of 40% of support from all eligible members must be met for industrial action to be legal.

• Union voting papers will have to include more detailed information for the workers.

• Notice of any industrial action has now been extended to fourteen days unless the employer is in agreement with seven days’ notice. 

• The ballot mandate will now expire after six months. After this the Union will need to seek a new ballot for any proposed industrial action

• There is now a requirement for unions to appoint a picket supervisor.

• New members can now choose whether to pay in to political funds and are provided with information regarding opting out on an annual basis. Note that the political fund does not just refer to a Union supporting a party (such as Labour) but also, possibly, organising campaigns and lobbying generally.

• In respect of public sector employers, and some in the private sector (i.e. those with functions of a public nature and mainly public funded), information must be published regarding the amount of time off union officials have for union duties and the amount of cost. Restriction of such time may also be imposed in the future.

The proposed repeal on the ban for employers to hire agency workers to cover for employees taking on industrial action, has not been included in the Trade Union Act 2016.

Frances O’Grady said: “While we are pleased to have secured significant changes to the Trade Union Bill, it still remains a very bad and divisive bill.”

It has been suggested by some legal commentators that devolved countries such as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland may be able to challenge the Act and its application to the public sector where the devolved government has direct authority. 

It remains to be seen how the Act will impact upon the rights of trade union worker, and unions are certain to challenge elements of it in the Courts. However, on the face of it, it seems that the bar has been raised to make it harder for UK workers to defend themselves and fight for their rights at work.

For further information contact Michael Imperato on 02921154313 

Watkins & Gunn Mooting Event

 

Our mooting (mock trial) event at Howells School for the college students.

 

to watch the video click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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