Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-183)
MR NIGEL CRISP, MR STEPHEN WALKER MR STEPHEN ORCHARD CBE AND SIR HAYDEN PHILLIPS KCB
WEDNESDAY 17 OCTOBER 2001
180. One of the proposals in this paper is simultaneously to minute the NHS's legal liability and also to encourage the medical profession to be more open and to learn from its mistakes. Mr Walker was saying earlier that you are very keen to inform people of their rights, but you accept that there is an inherent tension between having a punitive system and having an open culture and in the words of David Davis's report, only a non punitive system creates a high quality information link: if you are using the blunt weapon of litigation, you are going to create a culture of cover-up. Do you accept that?
(Mr Crisp) You are now making the point for one of the reasons for keeping the complaints system and the claims system separate, are you not? My earlier answer was to say that clinicians do not actually get involved in statements about liability and so on. They may get involved in saying what went wrong and they are sorry and this is what they are going to do about it, but there comes a point when we need to enable them to be as free to do that as possible. That is partly why we are introducing things so that when something does go wrong we shall pick it up through this national clinical assessment authority rather than through something more punitive. We try to do that. Then there is a tension between that and the courts and that is why I suspect we may end up saying the complaints and claims procedures will overlap to a degree but not entirely.
181. Gentlemen, that concludes the public evidence session. Just to remind you that you promised a note in answer to Mr Rendel's supplementary question on timing.
(Mr Crisp) I got it wrong, I may tell you now. He was right, I have just been informed. I can provide you with a note to that but he did actually get it right and I got it wrong.
182. Thank you very much.
(Mr Crisp) You have asked us for two or three notes and I understand your normal procedure is that somebody tells us about them after the Committee.
183. Yes, we have made a note. Thank you for being so courteous in answering our questions so fully on what is a very important matter of public concern. It has been our first working session this Parliament. I feel that it has gone well. I am very grateful to you for taking me through my first session. Thank you.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I should have said at the beginning for the record that as we are your first witnesses as Chairman we should have congratulated you and I should like that written into the record now.
Chairman: Thank you very much.