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Litigation should not be adversarial - NHS defence chief


laimant lawyers should regard their relationship with defendants as a ‘partnership’ and avoid an adversarial approach if possible, a leading clinical negligence defence figure has urged.


Simon Hammond, director of claims management for NHS Resolution, said yesterday that ultimately the only adversarial element of the litigation process should be the judge’s decision. He called on lawyers on all sides to take responsibility and collaborate to ensure that injured people get the outcomes they need.


Addressing the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers conference in Birmingham, Hammond acknowledged that his organisation, which settles around 13,000 claims a year, did not get everything right but said that a change in culture was underway. 


He said the burgeoning sense of collaboration with the claimant sector was a ‘cause for celebration’ and asked lawyers to foster greater cooperation. ‘We always accept there is going to be a discourse between the parties and a difference of opinion about causation, what the claim should be valued at or how it should be settled,’ said Hammond.


‘It is how we deal with those disputes and how you deal with those points in the best possible way in a constructive way that removes the adversarial nature.’


He added: ‘Sometimes we have to draw a line and say we are not going to move on things. But my ask of you is that if you do see that behaviour then approach us in the right way – we are more than happy to engage.’


Hammond highlighted quotes from the media in recent months where claimant representatives had been critical of defendant tactics and had accused them of delaying the claims process. He was careful not to criticise people for voicing their opinion, but asked: ‘Do these [quotes] encourage collaboration? If we are trying to change the culture how do they impact on those reading them?’


Hammond was pressed by delegates during the Q&A session on whether NHS Resolution really was committed to speedy resolution of claims. One said it could take months for NHS trusts to instruct panel defendant solicitors as so many people needed to sign off a response.


‘We are looking at our operating model and we are on a journey,’ replied Hammond. ‘Over the next couple of years we will probably see changes in how we operate with you.’


Another lawyer at the conference said her client had wanted an apology but this was delayed by defence lawyers and her client had died waiting. Hammond said: ‘Everyone knows what an apology is – it is not an admission of liability, it is saying sorry. We are continuing to push that [message] so heavily.'

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