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The newly formed Conservative government reached the 100 day milestone on Friday 14th August - but what has the government implemented or announced so far that impacts on the personal injury sector?
Jeremy Hunt outlines his vision for the future
Many of the most notable announcements have been on the subject of the NHS, with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey) outlining his 25-year vision for the health service.
A significant strand of this vision incorporates a ‘Seven day NHS’, and taking on the British Medical Association over changes to doctors’ contracts. The plans sparked an angry backlash from medical professionals who took to social media with the #ImInWorkJeremy hashtag.
So much for GPs clocking off at 7pm, still at work >12hr #ImInWorkJeremy and this weekend at walk in centre— Thomas Round (@drtomround) August 18, 2015
Just got home after staying late to update a family. #IminworkJeremy - extra work, for compassionate reasons, but you wouldn't understand.— Alex Scott (@Cheapoflurane) August 16, 2015
The Health Secretary also said he wants to change the culture of the NHS to a ‘more human’ system with a view to avoiding the sorts of failures that occurred at Mid Staffordshire Hospital. Quoting Steve Hilton’s latest book More Human, Jeremy Hunt says that “patients have become outputs, their health outcomes, products; our hospitals, factories.”
Another key element of the government’s plans for the NHS is the tackling of overspending, with trusts’ net deficit expected to top £2bn this year. In response, the government has demanded a range of interventions in order to bring this figure down.
“The first 100 days have been characterised by a focus on rhetoric at the expense of detail."
Mark Porter, British Medical Association Council Chair
However, the planned cap on care costs to £72,000 for over 65s and younger adults with disabilities, due to take effect from April 2016, is to be delayed until 2020 in response to widespread criticism from councils concerned about underfunding of the care sector.
BMA Council Chair Mark Porter has criticised the government’s attitude to the healthcare profession in its first 100 days, accusing it of alienating doctors in a bid for attention-grabbing headlines.
“The first 100 days have been characterised by a focus on rhetoric at the expense of detail. We have seen no detail on how the £22bn black hole in NHS finances in England is going to be closed, no definition about seven-day services, and an apparent intention to water down safeguards for patients and doctors,” said Mr Porter.
Claims management sector set for reform
George Osborne’s first budget as Chancellor in a Conservative majority government set out plans for reform of the regulation of the claims management industry, with the aim of ‘driving out unnecessary costs from insurance premiums.’
Proposals for a cap on the charges CMCs can charge to consumers will be brought forward, while a review into CMC regulation will be led by Carol Brady, Chair of the Chartered Trading Standard Institute’s Board.
Commenting on the review, National Accident Helpline’s Chief Executive Russell Atkinson said:
“National Accident Helpline has been working hard to drive up standards in the sector, through initiatives such as our Stop Nuisance Calls campaigns, and has been working proactively with government through the Insurance Fraud Taskforce. We look forward to working with the government to ensure the practices of CMCs are in the best interest of consumers and access to justice is not impaired.”
Michael Gove gets to work in his new post
One of the first spending decisions made by the Ministry of Justice following the appointment of Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) as the Justice Secretary - replacing Chris Grayling (Epsom & Ewell) - has been met with protests from angry lawyers and professional bodies who fear that firms may be forced to close.
Legal aid fees for criminal solicitors have been cut by 8.75% - effective from 1st July - while contracts for attending police stations and magistrates’ courts will be reduced by two-thirds.
“We are deeply concerned not only for the immediate future of the justice system, but for its continued survival in years to come,” said Andrew Caplen, President of the Law Society.
The new Justice Secretary has also demanded that the most profitable law firms contribute “much more” in terms of legal aid and free expertise.
“Many of our leading law firms have committed to give 25 hours pro bono on average per fee earner each year. That is welcome, but much more needs to be done,” said Gove.
It has also been announced that 91 courts and tribunals face closure, while a further 31 are slated for integration or merger.
There were two new Under-Secretary of State appointments at the MoJ in the early weeks of the government, with Dominic Raab MP (Esher & Walton) and Caroline Dinenage MP (Gosport) joining Shailesh Vara MP (North West Cambridgeshire) and Andrew Selous MP (South West Bedfordshire).
It was Dominic Raab who coined the idea of a British Bill of Rights in his 2009 book The Assault on Liberty, which proposed that it be ‘based on the core rights in the European Convention, but halting the conveyor belt of new rights’.
Charities to clean up act
The use of pressure tactics by charities were highlighted early on in this Parliament by the tragic death of Olive Cooke, the 92-year old poppy seller who fell to her death back in May, leading to the Charities Minister Rob Wilson (Reading East) warning fundraisers to clean up their act or face formal regulation.
“I am giving self-regulation an opportunity to demonstrate it can work effectively."
Rob Wilson MP, Charities Minister
Although Olive Cooke’s family have said that the hundreds of letters and phone calls she would receive from charities were not the cause of her suicide, in the weeks after her death the Fundraising Standards Board received as many complaints about nuisance marketing as it would usually receive in a whole year.
In the wake of Mrs Cooke’s death, the FSB launched an investigation into the opt-ins that charities use to acquire consumers’ data and how they share details amongst themselves.
“I am giving self-regulation an opportunity to demonstrate it can work effectively and make the short term and long term reforms necessary,” said Rob Wilson.
“I urge you to take that window of opportunity seriously as the window may not remain open for much longer.”
In the personal injury sector, the Ethical Marketing Charter, established by National Accident Helpline, has seen organisations come together in the fight against nuisance marketing.
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