By Niall McCracken
The Directorate of Legal Services (DLS) was in competition with the private sector for all legal work provided to health and social care organisations (HSC) until July 2008.
However, following the discovery of fraudulent activity, by George Brangam, principal partner in the partnership of solicitors operating under the name the name of Brangam Bagnall & Company, the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey MLA determined that DLS was to be the sole provider of Legal Services to the HSC. 2009/10 was the first complete year in which DLS acted for all HSC bodies.
From 2003-2011 there was over £100m spent on Clinical Negligence Financial Settlements. 2010 was the most costly year with over £21m spent on financial settlements alone.
The largest single payment occurred in a case that opened in 1993 and settled in 2004. The settlement amounted to £3.5 million.
The figures provided to us show that DLS staff worked over 63,000 hours on case loads relating to clinical negligence from 2002-2011. This works out at an average of 122 hours per week. With July 2012 taken as a sample month, the average hourly wage for DLS staff amounts to £16.90 this amounts to over £1m in extra costs.
The majority of payments made in clinical negligence settlements were between £10k and £50k with 25 cases amounting to over £1m. One of these cases lasted for 23 years (1986- 2009).TIME AND MONEY
The top ten payments to legal counsel happened between 2005-10. The figures show that the total amount of legal fees paid to counsel from 2003- 2011 amounted to over £10m, with the largest single fee paid to council totalling at over £130k from 2005. 2010 was the highest paid year for legal counsel with almost £2m spent on legal fees alone.
There was a further £2m spent on medical experts in legal cases, with the largest amount spent on medical experts in a single cases culminating to almost £17k in 2006, and the smallest amounting to only £4 in 2009.
The average time to settle a case from 2003-11 was just over four and a half years (4.6)
The Audit office report from 2002 states that taking an average time of four or five years to settle a claim and having claims which run over ten years point to inefficiencies in the system is a matter of concern.