Dr Phil Hammond, GP, lecturer and presenter of the BBC2 programme Trust Me, I'm a Doctor

Out of a National Health Service budget of £37 billion, more than £3 billion now goes on claims for medical negligence. That's one in every 12. So, for every 12 legs a surgeon amputates, he has to give one back to a barrister.

"To discuss this, I'm delighted to be joined by Louise Loadsamoney who specialises in medical negligence. So Louise, how did you get into this line of work?"

õAmbulance chasing? Well, we used to be in corporate law, but back in '92 the UK economy was in deep shit – mergers and acquisitions went out of the window – and we had to suck on any dry old tit just to survive."

"And the NHS is a dry old tit?"

"Well, it's more like some great soppy, floppy-uddered cash cow, with the patients pulling the head, the doctors pulling the tail and us lawyers stuck in the middle, milking it for all it's worth."

"Yes, I've cut your advert out of the TV guide. If I may read it: 'Been to hospital? Not happy with the length of your scar? Didn't like the shape of your tablets? Grapes had pips in them? Then it must be someone's fault! Sue now'.

"Is that ethical?"

"No, but it's legal. We live in a blame culture, thank God."

"And who do you blame for that?"

"Women. It's all down to the feminisation of society."

"And how do you work that out?"

"Sixty years ago, women stayed at home while men went off to war, got their legs shot off, came home, put their feet up and had a nice cup of Rosy Lea. Today, men stay at home, women go to work, sit at a keyboard, get a twinge in the wrist and sue."

"And do they win?"

"Course not – 90% of claims don't make it to court. But we offer a unique 'no win, big fee' scheme to soften the blow."

"...right. Do you think we should introduce no-fault compensation?"

"I didn't hear that."

ÙYes, but there is a huge injustice in the current system. If a baby is permanently damaged as a result of a medical accident, the parents get millions in compensation, but if a baby's born with the same disability and the same lifelong needs through4no-one's fault, then they get absolutely nothing."

"And neither does their lawyer – it's an absolute disgrace."

"But what about the future? When all doctors have to audit their work, won't you be out of business?"

"No way. Why do you think heart surgeons are sued to buggery?"

"Because they kill people?"

"All doctors kill people, but heart surgeons can prove it. They're stupid enough to audit their results. You show me some figures and I'll show you a law suit."

"Have you ever lost a case?"

"Never. We've got the best expert witnesses money can buy. And if things are looking sticky and the NHS is going to win, we hang round the back of the jury and cough very loudly when the foreman says Not. Works every time."

"Louise Loadsamoney, you're the Devil's Spawn."

"So sue me."

Guidelines in Practice, June 2000, Volume 3
© 2000 MGP Ltd
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