Legal Business Blogs

More for less: NHS ups legal spend but offers fewer spots in latest panel review

The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) is reviewing its panel of law firm advisers with a total legal spend of £544m. The health body last had a legal spend of around £400m when it unveiled its last panel in 2013.

Firms are able to pitch for three sub-panels; clinical, non-clinical liability and regulatory, health and disciplinary (RHD). The deadline for pitches is 3 April, with the process being overseen by the NHSLA’s director of claims Alan Hunter.

The clinical liabilities panel is worth an estimated £480m over four years, with ten places available on the roster. The non-clinical liability panel and the RHD panels are worth £32m over the four years, and with four and ten spots respectively. Places available on the clinical and non-clinical panels have decreased since 2013, where there were 11 and six slots available respectively.

Firms currently on the clinical liability sub-panel include Clyde & Co, Kennedys, Weightmans, Capsticks and DAC Beachcroft, while in 2013 Fieldfisher was also on the regulatory panel. Hill Dickinson, Browne Jacobson and Berrymans Lace Mawer are currently on the NHSLA’s non-clinical panel.

The NHSLA, which provides indemnity cover for legal claims against the NHS, states that the clinical liability legal panel will be constructed to provide ‘legal advice/assistance including handling pre-litigation; litigation and other forms of dispute resolution in respect of potential, actual or alleged clinical liabilities of NHS Trusts and others.’

An NHSLA spokesperson added: ‘Using the unique purchasing power of the NHS Litigation Authority, the tender process will ensure that the NHS receives value for money and allow us to maintain high quality legal services for our members.

‘The services required are to meet with an on-going, and often urgent, need to access law firms with specialist expertise and knowledge to provide advice and support on a wide range of health–related issues.’

In January 2017, the Department of Health began a separate tendering process to form a £6m panel of law firms to pursue litigation against companies in the pharmaceutical industry. The decision followed the £84.2m fine handed down by the Competition and Markets Authority to US-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer after it drastically elevated the prices of anti-epilepsy drugs.

In terms of other recent panel reviews, earlier this month BP announced plans to revamp its roster of legal advisers. Among BP’s current panel of advisers is Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Herbert Smith Freehills. This line-up is due to expire in July 2017.

Read more: ‘A buyers’ market – The trends and traumas in adviser reviews’