Widow attacks plans to cut legal aid for medical victims

The widow of a man who was a victim of medical negligence has lent her voice to a campaign to stop cuts to legal aid.

Karen Bonehill’s husband Mark died, aged 43, in 2008 after a blood clot which eventually caused a pulmonary embolism, went undetected.

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has admitted liability and has agreed compensation of £300,000.

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Changes have been made to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

Mrs Bonehill, from west Hull, said: “If legal aid hadn’t been available, I would have never have known they made these mistakes.

“We didn’t have any savings – with three kids and a mortgage you never have – and what I did have I had to pay for Mark’s funeral.

“It was only with my solicitor Nick Gray digging into it that they admitted that they should have done this and that.

“The proposals are absolutely ridiculous – if you are rich you will be able to do it but the average family, if it was something like what happened to us, they wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

Mr Gray, of Hull firm Williamsons Solicitors, said the coalition government was proposing withdrawing legal aid from all clinical negligence cases.

Claimants could try to get a solicitor to take the case on a “no win no fee” basis, but those with complicated or very expensive cases would lose out.

Even if they succeeded in getting legal aid and winning the case, they would have to shoulder up to 25 per cent of the costs.

He said it was “unlikely” they would have accepted Karen’s case because of the limited evidence made available by the NHS complaints procedure.

He said: “What will inevitably happen is that lawyers and solicitors will adopt a somewhat risk adverse approach. They will concentrate on the cases that are more likely to succeed and those cases that are maybe less clear cut or will be expensive to investigate will unfortunately fall by the wayside, which means access to justice for those individuals is severely restricted.”

He added: “We believe that the impact (of the proposed changes) should be made clear to the general public so that they have the opportunity to voice their concerns.”