A summary of key developments including an imminent change to the Northern Ireland discount rate; proposals to deliver a modern mental health service and greater integration of health and social care; the impact of vaccination on various sectors; calls for pre-action protocols in clinical negligence claims in Ireland; solicitors’ guideline hourly rates; and Costs Budgets.
Announcement on Northern Ireland discount rate
In a letter to stakeholders on 25 March 2021, the Department of Justice announced a significant development relating to the review of the personal injury discount rate in Northern Ireland.
Rather than allowing the planned Damages (Return on Investment) Bill to pass through the Assembly as planned (before setting the rate), the Department are proposing that secondary legislation should be used to change the discount rate under the current Wells v Wells framework, and introduce an amended discount rate of minus 1.75% from 31 May 2021.
We consider the anticipated impacts of this latest development here.
Contacts: Amanda Wylie and Frances Thompson
- Imminent change to Northern Ireland discount rate announced
- Northern Ireland moving towards new framework for setting the personal injury discount rate
- Kennedys urges Northern Ireland Executive to change approach to personal injury discount rate
- Proposed changes to Northern Ireland discount rate expected
Wide-ranging proposals to deliver a modern mental health service
Following an Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 1983 (the Act) – recommendations of which were published in December 2018 in a report, ‘Modernising the Mental Health Act: Increasing choice, reducing compulsion’ – the government, informed by those recommendations, has set out wide-ranging proposals “for a substantive programme of legislative reform”.
We consider the new guiding principles set out in the White Paper and some of the key aspects of the proposed amendments here.
Contact: Daniel Freeman
Related item: Government proposals for reform of the Mental Health Act
Government proposals for a Health and Care Bill
Building on the NHS Five Year Forward View in October 2014 and the Long-Term Plan published in February 2019, the Department of Health and Social Care have published their latest proposals for a Health and Care Bill.
As part of its proposals which aim to achieve greater integration of health and social care, the White Paper proposes the introduction of statutory integrated care systems (ICSs) consisting of two bodies - an ICS NHS body and an ICS Health and Care Partnership.
It should be noted that the ICSs are not new to the management of the NHS. However, current systems are voluntary with no statutory basis and accordingly are a matter for the discretion of the bodies involved.
We consider the proposals in our more detailed article here.
COVID-19 vaccination: sector impacts
While 2020 was undoubtedly the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is becoming the year of the vaccination. In our article below, our industry experts consider the latest developments relating to the vaccine and provide an overview of its impact on various sectors.
Contact: Cindy Tsang
Related item: COVID-19: the year of vaccination
Ireland: continued calls for pre-action protocols in clinical negligence claims
Despite the Legal Services (Regulation) Act coming into force in 2015, commencement of section 219 of the Act - the final step required for the drafting of the necessary regulations to formally introduce pre-action protocols in clinical negligence claims in Ireland - has not been commenced.
One of the key recommendations of the Administration of Civil Justice Review Report published in October 2020 is that early attention should be given to the introduction of the regulations prescribing the pre-action protocols in clinical negligence cases.
Once introduced, it is anticipated the protocols will lead to the overwhelming majority of cases settling at the pre-action stage, decreasing the burden on the courts and improving the experience of claimants and defendants alike, by considerably improving the efficiencies of an inefficient system.
Contact: Joanne O’Sullivan
Guideline hourly rates: review and public consultation
Regularly departed from in clinical negligence cases, guideline hourly rates, set in 2010 and reviewed in 2014, have been recently reviewed by a Civil Justice Council working group who published their report for public consultation between 8 January and 31 March 2021, which can be found here.
Since 2010, solicitors’ guideline hourly rates have been established for all Solicitors in England and Wales. Rates are split into National 2 (Outer City), National 1 (City Centre) and London (City of London, Inner London and Outer London). These Rates are set out in the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO) assessment guide.
These Rates remain a starting point for Costs Judges, who ultimately apply their knowledge, skill and judgement against these guidelines.
Contact: Ed Glasgow
High justification required to depart from Costs Budgets
A high level of justification will still be required if a paying party is to successfully persuade a Court to depart from an approved Costs Budget. Utting v City College Norwich  re-enforced the position that once a Budget is set, then solicitors should be confident, providing the Budget has been adhered to, that costs will be recovered.
Contact: Ed Glasgow