HC Deb 28 July 1998 vol 317 cc152-3
2. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Pursuant to his answer of 23 June 1998, Official Report, column 491, what representations he has received on methods of reducing clinical negligence litigation. [50977]

The Minister for Public Health (Ms Tessa Jowell)

We have received more than 120 replies to our call for ideas on how to reduce the threat of litigation in the national health service. The replies have come from a wide range of sources, including the health care and legal professions, and the NHS and patients. My officials are currently studying the replies to identify key issues and ideas that we can develop.

Mr. Dalyell

Are Ministers at all uneasy about the way in which some lawyers—not all—seem to encourage clients to take litigation against medical practices, and about the natural reaction of doctors and their colleagues, therefore, to practices defensive medicine, which may not be in the best interests of patients as a whole? Over the summer, will my hon. Friend and her lawyers look carefully at the submission by Lord Justice Sir Philip Otton—a complex document that I have given to the Department in the hope that legislation can be brought forward to overcome an increasing and delicate problem?

Ms Jowell

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already met Sir Philip Otton. We shall consider his proposals. We want to avoid patients being led to believe that they have grounds for legal action. The risk of defensive medicine follows. We want to ensure that lawyers are kept out of the operating theatres and doctors are kept out of the courts. That is good for patients.