What is the Clinical Disputes Forum and what does it do?

What is the Clinical Disputes Forum?

The Clinical Disputes Forum is a multi-disciplinary group of key people who work together to improve the clinical disputes procedures, and to cut the incidence of patients taking doctors and other health professionals to court to resolve legal disputes. It helps the parties to resolve disputes cost-effectively.

The Forum is a registered charity, formed in 1997 as a result of Lord Woolf’s Access to Justice inquiry which concluded that clinical negligence was “an area of peculiar difficulty”, in which reform could not be achieved by lawyers alone. He recognised that patients often wanted treatment to remedy the medical problem; an explanation of what went wrong; an apology and assurances that other patients would be treated differently in the future; and not every patient wanted compensation.

Lord Woolf had many concerns with the system, particularly:

  • Suspicion and mistrust between the parties, which often led to a lack of co-operation
  • Unmeritorious cases were pursued too often
  • Meritorious cases were defended for too long
  • Delays were greater than in other areas of litigation
  • Costs were frequently disproportionate to the value of the claims
  • The success rate was substantially lower than for other types of personal injury claims

A climate of openness was therefore recommended, together with a readiness by healthcare providers to provide explanations and a constructive approach to dealing with patients’ complaints and claims.

The Forum followed Lord Woolf’s recommendation of an “umbrella organisation” whose role would be to act as a “think-tank” and promoter of ideas for improving the resolution of clinical negligence disputes. It comprises a number of key people working in the field of clinical negligence litigation and other clinical disputes, including:

    Solicitors, barristers, judges Medical professionals The Deputy Health Service Ombudsman NHS and private healthcare managers Patient representatives Legal Services Commission officials The Departments of Health and Constitutional Affairs, and The National Health Service Litigation Authority.

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For more information on:

  • The Pre-Action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes
  • What else does the Forum do?