The removal of legal aid for most clinical negligence claims has reduced access to justice for arguably the most vulnerable group in society. It has been another step in the diminution of the UK justice system.
Middle class alleged victims of negligence were far more likely to seek out law firms offering conditional fee deals. The research found that those in the middle income group who pursued claims after an adverse medical event increased from less than 4 per cent in 2001 to 22 per cent in 2013. But those in the lowest income group were far less likely to make a claim – 7 per cent in 2013 compared with 15 per cent in 2001. Clinical negligence claims were removed from legal aid eligibility in the late 1990s, when the government at the time instituted the conditional fee regime as a replacement. Nuffield says the figures indicate that “the withdrawal of legal aid may have reduced the propensity of those on lower incomes to make claims”.