The ink had hardly dried on judgments in three House of Lords cases which will increase damages awards by up to one-third in big negligence cases, when the Lord Chancellor decided on another reform which will mean higher legal costs for the NHS.

Litigants who sue on a no win, no fee basis and win will be able to claim from the loser the insurance premium they paid to cover the risk of losing, as well as their lawyer's 'success fee'.

The success fee is the percentage on top of normal costs the lawyer takes to compensate for the risk of losing. It can be up to 100 per cent of the usual costs, with a ceiling of 25 per cent of the damages.