Law Commission proposals earlier this month to allow the NHS to recover the cost of treating patients who are injured by someone else's negligence or wrongdoing may prove something of a mixed blessing for the health service. But they are certainly good news for lawyers.
As the NHS Confederation duly pointed out, such a right could produce a big source of funds for trusts - though how long that bonus would last once the Treasury offset it against central funds is arguable - but it would also involve the NHS in time consuming and complex work for which it is not prepared.
The full report in which the proposals appear can be found in the commission's online library - given time.
It appears at the foot of a long table of downloadable documents, under the 'common law' heading, along with a related report recommending changes in the law on claims for wrongful death.
The commission argues that the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 - reforming the law which allows the NHS to reclaim the cost of treating people involved in road accidents - could be extended 'relatively easily', and need not even be confined to areas where there is compulsory insurance - such as workplace accidents.
It also recommends that the law on carers' rights to compensation should remain largely as it is - with no new right to claim personally against the legal wrongdoer, but a continued right for the injured person to get an award for 'care reasonably provided, or to be provided, gratuitously. . . by relatives and friends'.
The commission's proposals on claims for wrongful death are also significant for the NHS. If implemented, they will extend the right to claim for bereavement damages to include not just spouses and parents, but also children, siblings and long-term partners, with a tripling of the ceiling on claims to£30,000.
These and other sites of interest can be reached via HSJ 's website at www.hsj.co.uk