Slater & Gordon Latest.

Slater_and_Gordon_Lawyers_blue_logoFour days ago, Slater & Gordon announced that it was seeking £600 million in damages from Watchstone PLC, the group formerly known as Quindell. The background to Quindell can be read here.

In their ‘letter of intent’ to sue, Slater & Gordon stated that: the claim is worth £600m on the basis that ‘but for fraudulent misrepresentation’ it would not have entered into a deal to buy Quindell’s professional services division.

At the time of the purchase, Andrew Grech, managing director of Slater & Gordon said: the company has completed ‘extensive’ due diligence work and is convinced of the merits of the deal. It was reported at the time that S & G had 70 of their in-house lawyers carrying out due diligence on Quindell.

It would appear that they may have missed something of sufficient importance to interest the Serious Fraud Office. On Monday, one of Slater & Gordon’s UK subsidiaries which was part of the Quindell acquisition, received a formal S2 notice from the UK Serious Fraud requiring it to produce documents.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 16.47.19Today, this news provided a boost to Slater & Gordon’s share price of 4.7% admittedly only taking it to $0.11 –  it has been as low as $0.08 but every little helps when you are that far in the hole. Back in 2015 Slater and Gordon shares hit a high of $8.07, valuing the company at $2.8 billion.

In 2015 Slater & Gordon agreed to pay around $1.2 billion for Quindell, despite the fact Quindell already operated under a dark cloud of accounting investigations and other regulatory issues around misrepresentations in its business model – there were similar dark clouds around Slater & Gordon’s accounting methods.

They were the world’s first law firm to go public, and many investors failed to understand that ‘WIP’, as they termed it, was not a guarantee of work in hand but merely an estimation of the likelihood of success and how much work had been done so far. It recorded this as ‘revenue’, even though it was yet to get any – and, in some cases, would never get paid.

If the fraud allegations are proven to have misled Slater & Gordon into entering the deal with Quindell their lawyers may be able to claim some financial compensation – though it is highly unlikely that Quindell/Watchstone actually has sufficient assets to come up with hard cash. S && G may have recourse to compensation via some sort of professional insurance, but even that is unlikely to plug the $740 Australian dollar debt the company is still carrying.

‘The Australian’ reported last weekend that part of Slater’s restructure of that $746 million of debt was sold at 20 cents in the dollar to a group of hedge funds led by ‘Anchorage Capital and Varde Partners’ and they have a first charge over any proceeds on the £600 million claim.

There may be a management professional indemnity insurance policy covering Rob Terry; if that is true it is likely to be invalidated if fraud is proven. Rob Terry at the time, was reported to have taken £50 million out of the company at the time of the sale, and it may be that Slater & Gordon intend to sue him personally for this sum. Chicken fed in terms of the size of their debt, but will bring cheer to some of those who have been bruised by their dealings with Rob Terry in the past.

Watchstone’s have said the ‘groundless’ claim for ‘fraudulent misrepresentation’ was dismissed following a review by an independent barrister in November. This opinion was on the basis of evidence provided by both Slater and Gordon and Watchstone, and stated that a misrepresentation claim had less than a 50% prospect of success.

However, Slater & Gordon are believed to hold ‘key documents’ that have yet to be disclosed which would be relevant to the merits and quantum of its claims, and which may be available to the Serious Fraud Office. Slater and Gordon said it would not have purchased Quindell’s professional services division without the claimed misrepresentation.

Back in March, Westpac, National Australia Bank, Barclays, and Royal Bank of Scotland sold their holdings in Slater & Gordon for as little as 20c in the dollar – they will all be watching these events closely. At the same time, many top barristers were warned of the dangers of taking on new work from Slater & Gordon in an e-mail from David Andrews, the senior clerk of ‘List A Barristers’ – which represents 50 Queen’s and Senior Counsel, and 78 commercial barristers in Victoria, Australia.

“I strongly recommend that if you have any un-billed work you have undertaken on instructions from Slater and Gordon, you prepare and send an account forthwith. I recommend even more strongly that any new work offered to you by Slater and Gordon or ongoing work requested by the firm only be undertaken once we hold funds in OUR trust account.”

The Serious Fraud Office in the UK does not have a good reputation for unravelling these complicated deals – not for nothing is it known as the Serial Farce Office – but it is to be hoped that this time it does do a good job, for many reputable personal injury firms were swallowed up by Slater & Gordon as it made its way across the UK personal injury landscapes, and many senior partners had given up their lifetimes work in return for Slater & Gordon shares which then proved to be near worthless.

Whilst I would personally cheer the demise of Slater & Gordon – they will take down with them the pensions and futures of many decent lawyers who had spent years building up honest practices, only to see them swallowed up in this financial debacle.

On Rebuilding Your Life When Hit By An Exocet.

Operation_Upshot-Knothole_-_Badger_001I have been having some interesting conversations recently that I had not expected to have; with people, who, like me, had suddenly found that through no fault whatsoever of their own, an Exocet had landed in the bowels of their previous life which had reduced to rubble all their expectations of how they would conduct their future life.

They were not, as you might imagine, all fellow patients with physical ailments. Exocets arrive in many forms.

For Mrs Blunt, it arrived in the form of her husband’s gleeful public declaration of his love for his homosexual partner. The media were delighted to report on his new relationship. She was left to rebuild her life with her children. An entirely innocent victim of a life shattering Exocet.

For Mrs Travis, it was the announcement that her husband was being investigated by Operation Yewtree. Mrs Travis had done nothing wrong, yet she lost her home, her peace of mind at a time that she was grappling with breast cancer – and her privacy. Her life would never be the same again.

Other who have been kind enough to make contact with me include a man who has recently been cleared of all charges, a totally innocent individual, yet who must still keep his head below the parapet for fear of further publicity so I shall not mention his name; and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner who finds time in her busy schedule every day to phone me and keep my spirits up.

That is not to ignore the many good friends I have made whilst running this blog – Gloria Smudd and Blocked Dwarf come to mind in particular, both have given of their time to help me settle into my new home; Andrew Rosthorn, Daedalus Parrot and ‘another’ who shall remain nameless (again with good reason to keep their head below the media parapet)  have given hours of their time to help me stand for election.

It is with those who have found themselves caught up as innocent participants in the whirlwind of false allegations that I feel a particular affinity with. I have a new understanding of what it is like to have your life turned upside down.

My life, their life, can never be the same again. We have done nothing wrong, yet have to accept that there is no road back to our old life – whether it is because, in their case, that the vile accusations will continue to be propagated on an unforgiving internet, their family name forever besmirched; or in my case, that I will never walk again with all the limitations that brings in its wake.

One thing I have quickly learned is to disassociate yourself from those who have a fixed view as to how you should ‘present’ yourself to the public in future.

You have to be true to yourself.

Yet there are many around you only too quick to give you advice as to what you should or shouldn’t be saying, nor how you should be saying it! You can rest assured that my decision to carry on blogging hasn’t gone down well with some people. My decision to ‘go public’ with my story in The Times with James Gillespie and the Mail on Sunday with David Rose in an effort to bring publicity to the issue of people suing the NHS has gone down like a lead balloon in some quarters…..

Fortunately that doesn’t include Mr G who has been a tower of strength for me, not just in terms of what he has had to do for me physically – and I cannot wait to publish the blog post which will carry pictures of the wonderful extension he has built on for me to live in, I am so very proud of what he has done – but he has also supported me mentally; mopping my tears when I have been overwhelmed by self pity, cheering me when I have managed to write a blog post, and, small point, bringing me back photographs of all the little things I can no longer see for myself.

I say ‘small point’ – but have you any idea what a difference it makes to me that he brings back a photograph of what the pub garden looks like now that they have taken down a large tent, rather than merely ‘telling’ me about it? It makes me feel as though I am still part of the wider world.

It was Mr G too, who brought into the hospital that photograph of me at 23, to remind me that that girl was still inside me, even if I could no longer recognise myself in the mirror. (One of the side effects of the massive dose of steroids that I was having at the time, apart from making you talk ten to the dozen in a loud voice, is that they literally change the shape of your jaw and puff out your cheeks, so much so that I nearly screamed the first time I caught sight of myself!)

I have had to get used to the lack of privacy too. I can no longer be alone. There must always be someone with me. No phone call is private. No part of my body is private – I have round the clock care to wash me and dress me. No bodily function is private. That is why it becomes so very important to have some control over some part of my life – and that is where I have some connection with others who have received an Exocet in the backside.

We can’t change the past, can’t change what has happened, but we have control over how we face the future.

Hidden away, licking our wounds; or blazing out in public saying ‘I don’t care what you think, this is the person I am, this is the person I choose to be, this is the person I am – you can either like it or lump it’.

It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me well, to learn that I am choosing the latter path. In fact you could say – the latter path ‘with knobs on’.

As we speak, there are two web experts doing their best to put my blog site back as it was. It can’t be exactly the same, because it will be going on a wordpress.com site rather than a self hosted wordpress.org site and the software is not identical. I’ve chosen not to go the self hosted route this time, because I still have to face the reality that the cancer will kill me at some unspecified time in the future, and if the blog was self hosted, that would mean that it would disappear again.

Thankfully the kind reader who had hosted the archive site is going to host the new site as well, so it will stay up and running when I am gone – it does mean though, that all the comments on all the back posts will disappear. Apparently there is no known piece of software that will scrape both the posts and the comments onto a new WordPress site. Edinburgh University have a full record of all the comments for any serious researchers. I’m just explaining that before someone thinks there is some nefarious reason why there are 0 comments on the old posts.

So, my choice as to how to deal with future is to write; what I want, when I want, how I want. Writing is my window on the world, it allows me to reach out to people from this bed. I hope that you will take the opportunity to comment as well – not just read, for it is that conversation that transports me from this bed into the world that I used to belong to.

A world that was full of people and events and colour.

If you have time – you can make it like that still for me, by telling me of what you have been doing, what you are thinking. I know there were hundreds, nay thousands, of you reading this blog before I closed it in December – if just a few of you take the time to continue that conversation you will be helping me to be part of my old world.

Thank you.

The NHS that you really, really, want!

4896In 1948, in a country ravaged by years of war in Europe, a remarkably simple idea was born. Doctors, nurses, and hospitals would come together under one umbrella, to provide health care, free at the point of delivery, to every citizen of the United Kingdom, regardless of their means. It was to be financed by a levy on every working citizen, called the national insurance stamp.

What we call ‘the National Health Service’ today is made up of a complex range of organisations with different functions and responsibilities that have been turned into a political football that neither Labour nor Conservative politicians are prepared to speak the truth about.

One of those functions is to pay compensation to those who sue the NHS for ‘poor service’. This can range from life changing surgical mistakes, to those who consider that the receptionist in A & E has been ‘rude and off hand’ or they have had to wait too long. We expect the NHS to behave like Ryanair, or Vodophone, or other profit-making enterprises, and if it doesn’t give us exactly what we want, in a timely manner, then we pick up the phone to a lawyer,  and expect compensation.

That is not to minimise the devastating effect that mistakes by Doctors or nurses can have. I have personally been the ‘victim’ (though I hate that word!) of acts of medical negligence  for which I could have sued the NHS – but doing so would not have changed the fact that my body was damaged by those mistakes, it would only have ‘fined’ the NHS budget – and ensured that the NHS was even shorter of money than it is.

This year the Department of Health will transfer around £95 billion to NHS England. A staggering £56 billion of that sum is already allocated to the NHS Litigation fund in order to fund compensation claims. 

Whilst it is absolutely true that some areas of the NHS are chronically under funded; junior Doctors are under paid, wards are under staffed, access to new drugs is being restricted, waiting times for serious illnesses such as cancer have increased, the ambulance service are creaking at the seams – no politician is explaining to you why £95 billion is insufficient to provide the service that was offered to the British people in 1948.

It was the Blair Labour Government who set up the NHS Litigation Fund in 2000, just as they had set up the many ‘PFI deals’, allowing the costs of activities – the building of hospitals, and, in the case of the Litigation Fund, the cost of claims against the NHS – to move from the government’s accounting system to a discrete external system. Both early examples of the privatisation of the NHS – though not examples that would have been picked up by our slumbering media in the same way that say, the privatisation of an accident and emergency department would have done.  

Prior to 2000, each Trust dealt with its own legal matters. Many a conference took place. Meetings were convened across the country  to discuss how the new national service was to operate. There will have been training for staff, new paperwork to be printed, job descriptions drawn up, premises to be rented, even the relocation of existing staff.

To give you an example of the sort of jobs available to solicitors working on behalf of the NHS this is fairly typical. The job is based in Birmingham and would involve handling claims up to £1 million. The actual salary is not disclosed, but in addition to the salary you could expect:

Benefits include; Life Assurance (4 times salary), Gym subsidy, Employee Assistance Programme, 25 days holiday entitlement per calendar year increasing to 27 days after 5 consecutive years employment, Childcare Voucher Scheme, Eye care Vouchers every 1-2 years as requested, Private Medical Insurance (Aviva), Permanent Health Insurance / Income Protection, Interest free Season Ticket Loan, Childcare Nursery Scheme, Employer Pension (available at start date, office variations apply).

It doesn’t end there – there will be any number of other positions. Everything from security officers on the doors (to deal with angry clients) on £16,829, to a chief executive on £196,267 plus perks…they all have to be paid for by the taxpayer before they pick up the first claim file.

In November last year, Dr Michael Devlin, from the Medical Defence Union (MDU) said the NHS was sitting on a time bomb. He was referring to the £56.4 billion that the NHS needed to set aside from its annual budget to pay for negligence claims.

These figures reveal the urgent need to make compensation levels more affordable. The NHS is sitting on a time bomb of future claims and legal reform is the only way to address it and to keep money within the NHS for treatment of patients

This is not a problem caused by clinical standards, which remain very high. It is the result mainly of economic pressure and an outdated legal system meaning compensation must be calculated on the basis of private rather than NHS care. This means billions of pounds leaving NHS funds to provide independent sector care for just one person, taking away funds that could be used for other patients, including those with equally serious injuries who can’t prove negligence. 

The NHS is hemorrhaging money on claims which it should be able to retain so that all patients benefit. Patients must be compensated but in a fairer, more affordable way.”

Last year, the NHS Litigation Authority (‘NHSLA’) put out a tender inviting solicitors to apply for the job of defending clinical negligence claims against the NHS. The tender was worth a staggering £480, 000, 000.00 over a four-year period – not including VAT! They expected to appoint a team of ten firms of solicitors. There were other tenders on offer for things like employer liability which need not concern us. 

In January this year, we learnt that the NHS had paid £70m to parents of disabled babies who say they would have had abortions had they known of the abnormalities earlier. The payments for what are legally termed “wrongful birth” were made by the NHS Litigation Authority over the previous five years.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, the director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “It is not wrongful that babies are born with disabilities. It is wrongful that taxpayers are funding a culture which sees disabled children as an inconvenience. To say the birth of a child is a ‘harm’ to an individual or family and to use taxpayers’ money to compensate for the harm is unkind; it is not a mark of a civilised society. It sends out the wrong signals.”

The bulk of the payouts were to parents who claimed that antenatal screening failed to warn them of the risk that their baby would be born with a disability. The parents argued that had they known their child had a high chance of being born disabled, they would have undergone a termination.

Is that really what we set up the NHS for? To compensate parents who ‘would have’ aborted their child if they had known that there was a ‘high risk’ that the new addition to their family might be disabled? That £70 million would have paid for many more hip operations for elderly patients in acute pain. You won’t find a politician of any hue prepared to say so.

It is in the field of Obstetrics that the majority of high value claims are occurring. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG analysed a  October 2012 report from the NHS Litigation Authority which showed the 10 years from 2000 when the Labour Government set up the Litigation Fund through to 2012 when the coalition government had been in place for two years.

In that time, there were 5,087 maternity claims costing a total of £3.1 billion pounds from approximately 5.5 million births. This was less than 1 in 1000 births ending in litigation.

Most births are a natural process but some mothers and babies require medical attendance during and after delivery. The cost of fully staffing the maternity units would be around half the cost of litigation each year and would reduce claims considerably.

The NHS LA report is staggering in its stark facts and the reality of the enormous costs of maternity litigation. Hidden behind the financial burden are countless stories of tragedy to individuals and families. However, it is important to remember that not all cases of say, cerebral palsy, result in a claim and significant payout for lifetime care. For some parents, cerebral palsy is caused by a brain malfunction during the gestation period – and yet that child will have the same ‘needs’ as a child whose brain was damaged during the birthing process.

One child is treated as ‘unfortunate’, one is treated as a ‘faulty product’ of the NHS and may receive up to £6 million and more in compensation.

Both will be entitled to ‘free’ care from the NHS. Having received compensation based on the cost of private care – there is then no obligation to use private care – they can bank the money and take up their entitlement to NHS care in the same way that everyone else does. NHS care is not means tested. It is free at the point of delivery to everyone — even those who have just sued the NHS claiming that they need private care! The tax payer pays twice over.

Let me give you an example of what happens to that money that is handed over in compensation.  ‘Duaine’ was just such a child born with cerebral palsy. There is no doubt whosoever that his needs are considerable.

“Duaine cannot talk and uses a communication board with pictures and an iPad for very basic communication. He cannot walk but can mobilise a little by crawling. He is completely dependent on others for feeding, bathing and all personal care matters. He is incontinent and wheelchair dependent. He is also severely cognitively impaired and during the litigation it was said that his understanding is zero. He also has epilepsy but this has been well controlled on medication for the last seven years. During the litigation it was stated that he has a normal life expectancy.”

Duaine received £3,100,000 in compensation from the relevant Health Trust when it was agreed that Duaine’s condition did not result from a brain malfunction whilst he was forming in the womb, but from an act of negligence in the maternity ward when he was born. 30 years later, Duaine still had £3,100,00 sitting in the bank and the question before the court was where should this money go when Duaine died? The answer proved to be that his mother would have a life interest in the house that had been bought for Duaine, and then be passed onto his three brothers; 1% of his estate to Cancer Research, 1% to the Guy’s and St Thomas’ charity, and the remainder of the £3,1 million split between his mother and his three brothers.

Duaine, of course, would have been entitled to a lifetime of free care from the NHS in exactly the same way as he would have been if his injuries had resulted from a malfunction in the womb.

Did suing the NHS change Duaine’s condition in any way? Will his three brothers and his Mother sharing £3,1 million ‘teach the NHS a lesson’ in some magical manner that will ensure that no other baby is damaged in that way? Has justice been served?

It is unfair of me to single out Duaine as an example – he is only one of hundreds of cases brought by personal injury lawyers every year – and the figure is escalating alarmingly.

To the point where the rest of the NHS is starved of funds – which logically will only increase the risk of negligent accidents. Underpaid staff, working on understaffed and ill-equipped wards, are human beings, and liable to make mistakes.  

In 2015, the Government suggested that they might take steps to limit legal costs in lower value claims – those up to £100,000. The legal profession was appalled.  Some solicitors claimed that the move could deny patients access to justice…you can sympathise with their fears, for instance, where a patient received £11,800 in damages but the legal fees, which the NHS had to recompense, totalled £175,000, a solicitor might not want to take on such profitable cases in the future if the fees were lower….

In 2013-14, the NHS was charged £259m in legal fees by such solicitors. They did complain to the courts and managed to recoup £74m, but that involves using their in-house lawyers to mount a challenge to fees – taking them away from looking into actual claims, so not really cost-effective.

The Health Minister at that time said, Ben Gummer, said: “Unscrupulously, some lawyers have used patient claims to load grossly excessive costs onto the NHS and charge far more than the patient receives in compensation.” However, one of the solicitors involved in making claims against the NHS, Terry Donovan from the law firm Kingsley Napley, said that the problem lay with NHS defending claims – if only they rolled over and paid up more quickly……

This sounds like another massive attack on access to justice for everybody. […] Costs can be very proportionate if the NHS will admit liability promptly when it’s appropriate. […] But defendants drive up costs if they don’t admit liability early on and the case ends up in court.”

We might usefully point out at this time that only 2% of the NHS cases do actually end up in court.

Nicola Wainwright, clinical negligence partner at Leigh Day, also weighed in claiming that a cap on fees for cases under £100,000 would ’cause the victims of medical negligence further misery’ because:

It will restrict their ability to claim compensation to cover the costs they now have to pay because of their injuries. […] Nowhere does the government mention its role in causing legal costs to rise. It is within the power of the NHS LA to reduce costs by accepting liability earlier in clear-cut cases, yet they do not.’

Another solicitor who thinks that the NHS – for which read the taxpayer – should roll over uncomplainingly and stop defending claims?

The £56 billion figure works out at £2,217 that every taxpayer must fund to compensate those who can prove that the NHS was at fault in the service it provided.

Dr Christine Tomkins, chief ­executive of the Medical Defence Union, which insures medics, said: “The NHS is sitting on a time bomb of future claims. Legal reform is the only way to keep money within the NHS for treatment of patients.”

The lawyers won’t point out that part of the reason the frontline NHS is underfunded is that they are earning a good income from suing the NHS.

Politicians won’t point out that part of the reason the frontline NHS is underfunded is because the law allows people to sue for a lifetime of private care and then use ‘free’ NHS care and bank the money – they would far rather tell you that the NHS is short of money ‘because of Tory austerity cuts’, or because Labour ‘left the NHS in a mess’.

The media won’t tell you what the problem is because they no longer have good investigative journalists who are paid enough and have sufficient training to look at boring subjects like the NHS Litigation Fund accounts and tease out the facts  until they have a story. I actually had one journalist here this week who was amazed to learn that such documents were online…she asked me to e-mail her a link ‘in case she couldn’t find it’.

The Mail on Sunday is digging into the legal reform necessary to bring this to an end – and will be publishing further articles. The other papers which latched onto the story, The Mirror, The Sun, the Express, and bizarrely ‘The Troon and Angus something or other’, were only interested in the froth – ‘Cancer sufferer standing against Jeremy Corbyn’.

Yet £56 billion sits in the NHS budget which could go to front line services and not end up as part of an estate split up between brothers living in Jamaica or a legacy to a cat’s home…..

Surely that’s not what you are paying your national insurance contributions for – is it?

You tell me.

_____________________________________

*Apologies for grammar and spelling errors – I’m writing through a fog of medication after having radio-therapy on my arm yesterday – at least I’m typing with two hands again. I am aware that I’m not up to my usual standard – things will get better, promise. I’m trying to rejig the site too, so that it looks as it used to.

The Levellers are back in Islington.

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Yesterday, I said that one of the things I loved about running this blog was the amount of new knowledge I acquired along the way. No sooner said than done.

I have been fascinated by the way in which Jeremy Corbyn and I are on a level playing field. He may be better known to you as ‘Leader of the Opposition’; he may have an army of supporters behind him; his face may be on every TV screen; he may have access to campaigning funds beyond my wildest dreams – but as far as the returning officer at Islington North is concerned, he is just a man whose name appears on the ballot paper along with that of Susanne Cameron-Blackie and the other candidates. No special treatment, no relaxation of the rules, no bowing and scraping. Truly a General Election is a leveler of citizens.

There was something about typing that word ‘Leveller’ that rang a bell in a dark and cobwebby corner of my mind.  Very cobwebby as it happens. A gossamer labyrinth festooned with the dust of a thousand conversations and snippets of information.  Was it a pub quiz, or perhaps a history lesson 50 years ago? I had definitely heard that word before and in connection with politics. You probably got there way before me – but Google is my friend (and belated tutor).

The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil War. They started meeting,  of all places,  in Islington – in a tavern called the ‘Rosemary Branch’. They were early Libertarians rather than Socialists. They were the first to adopt the habit of writing pamphlets and petitions to publicise their cause.

They wrote effectively not merely because they were exceptionally gifted or technically well equipped … but because they wrote with a purpose clearly understood and deeply felt, and for an audience which they knew to be close and immediately responsive … they can fairly claim to be the fathers of the tradition of plain English writing dedicated to the service of the plain man.

So there you are – Islington wasn’t such an odd choice for me – it had long been a place where people who believed that all men were equal, that all religions should be tolerated, that all men should be treated equally by the justice system, were moved to write about it. I hadn’t realised that I was so ignorant about English history. Needless to say, I have spent the afternoon reading everything I could find about the Levellers. It is almost as though Islington was pre-ordained for me.

If the Levellers were early minimalist Libertarians, the other political group group which came to prominence and opposed them – the ‘Diggers’ – were fledgling hardline Marxists. How hugely appropriate, as Jeremy Corby digs a hole in which to bury the Labour Party!

At the moment we are in danger of creating a justice system that doesn’t treat all men equally. Those who are accused of sexual offences are being marshalled into an area of the justice system that simply isn’t a level playing field with rest of the justice system – different rules apply, with very unfair results. Whilst I am currently campaigning on the issue of this ridiculous sum of money that is being expended on compensation claims against the NHS, I don’t want anyone to think that I have lost interest in the fate of those who have been on police bail for years on end, waiting for a charging decision from the CPS, or have had to forgo their homes and pensions in order to pay for their defence.

There is a connection between the two issues – in many cases it is those same firms of personal injury lawyers, fed by those irritating advertisements on afternoon television, who are scalping the NHS – just as they have scalped many other institutions; motor insurance pools; then with the historic sexual offences – the church, and various charities running care homes – that is not to suggest that some of the claims against those institutions are not valid – merely that they have clearly been targeted by rapacious personal injury lawyers trawling for business.

PPI (Payment protection insurance) which has proved such a lucrative income source for many of these firms – ‘Gladstone Brooks’ cheerfully advertises that it has reclaimed £800 million for its clients, at what benefit to Gladstone Brooks we do not know – is drawing to a close. So presumably they will be looking for a fresh source of institutions to target.

Where those ‘fresh sources’  turn out to be taxpayer-funded, as is the case with the NHS – then I am interested, because what we are witnessing is a grand transfer of tax payer funds into the hands of personal injury lawyers via ‘no win, no fee’ agreements.

Take the case of the surgeon who has been convicted of carrying out unapproved ‘cleavage sparing operations’ on patients; the Trust involved has chosen to pay an average of £37,000 to the women involved – and Eight and a half million pounds to the lawyers who were acting on their behalf. We don’t know the terms of the settlement – it may well be that the Trust thought it was cheaper to settle at this stage rather than risk the costs going even higher.

Emma Doughty, clinical negligence solicitor at law firm Slater and Gordon, which represents more than 60 victims, said: “Although we have seen hundreds of claimants, God knows how many this actually affects.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of claimants and then we have got to think about people who haven’t come forward, people who have died. It’s on a huge scale.

“I would say, from our standpoint and what we know, there have been cover-ups since the late Nineties.”

Sound familiar?

‘Choice’ – the Elixir of Life.

mind-mappingYou know what? I never realised how much I would miss the old blog. Never realised how much the community of commentators had become part of my life.

I thought it had become a chore. A burden. The daily diet of e-mails to be answered. The research for each post. The hassle of dealing with the glitches and gremlins that are part and parcel of keeping a blog going.

I actually thought I was doing it for you. I did. Honestly.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finally closed the doors back in December. I closed down the e-mail account. Abandoned the Twitter feed. Stopped paying for the hosting.

I had the perfect excuse for doing so. My health was deteriorating. The tumour in my arm had grown so large that I was typing with one hand. One of the ones in my lung was groaning with discomfort whenever I sat upright.  I didn’t know then about the one in my spine, but I knew that my back hurt like hell whenever I sat upright. I limped back and forth from the kettle to the computer, thanks to the one in my leg. That’s just the ones on the surface – there are others, buried inside my body.

Nothing could be more ridiculous than to continue to write for the benefit of other people, given all that, right? Pack it in and concentrate on myself was the only sensible course of action. Right?

Wrong!

I have learnt many lessons since last December. Painful lessons.

Most of all, I have learnt how ‘choice’ is an important part of all our lives. Probably the most important part – and probably the part we take for granted more than any other aspect of daily life.

Right now, I would love a cup of tea and a biscuit. Mr G is busy painting the panels beneath the windows of the room that will be my new home. I can’t ask him to stop halfway – and I can’t walk to the kettle to do it myself, so I have no choice in the simple matter of wanting a cup of tea and a biscuit.

My entire life is composed of having no choice in mundane things like that.  I clean my teeth when someone else hands me a toothbrush. I can see to read a newspaper when someone else chooses to turn the light on, or hands me my glasses when I ask for them.

Don’t get me wrong – everyone is exceptionally kind and only too willing to do whatever I ask. There is a difference though. They are exercising choice as to whether to do whatever it is I have asked for – or not. My ‘choice’ has been reduced to being able to choose what sort of mood I greet each day with, and to reach whatever has been left within arm’s reach of me.

That means my keyboard has become a powerful weapon of ‘choice’. I can choose to write. I can choose to bring attention to the compensation culture that is crippling the NHS. I can choose to stand for parliament. I can choose to re-open the virtual pub that was ‘Anna Raccoon’ – sometimes known as the ‘Raccoon Arms’.

Hmmn. I Thought I was running the blog for your benefit! Seems I wasn’t, for when I examined the choices still available to me…… there it is, large as life, on the list of choices available to me – ‘open the blog and write again’.

Looks like I was doing it for my benefit all the time.

Since writing also figured hugely on that list of things that dictated my frame of mind for the day, the regulars of the Raccoon Arms are a kind of double whammy – I missed you all. Even on the days when you were crotchety and grumpy; especially on the days when you were witty and inspirational; as for the days when you sent me shooting off to Google to understand what you were talking about because you were way too intelligent and educated for me to keep up – I loved it – it was educational!

So, thanks to the white knight who saved my archive unasked, and who has set up this site for me – the doors are open once more. You will notice that he has manged to very cleverly stitch the archive to the back of this new WordPress blog,  so it is both the virtual pub, and the archive that he saved. I still own the annaraccoon.com domain name and that is in the process of being pointed towards this new blog, so it should all settle down within a few days.

First drinks at the bar are free – unless you live in Islington North, in which case I would be accused of treating for votes!

I would particularly welcome your suggestions as to what you would like to see me write about, for my world is of necessity shrunk to the confines of this bed, which means I won’t have the stimulus of – for instance – taking a trip down the river on the boat with Mr G. I know what one post will be – and that is to show you photographs of the amazing room Mr G has built onto our house in the past six weeks, which will be my new home. It is truly beautiful with a fantastic view of the river. I’ve just got to be patient and wait for the scaffolding to come down tomorrow, and the floor to be laid.

My mind is free though – my mind can go anywhere it wants to. That is the most valuable choice of all.

Make the most of your choices today. They are easily mislaid. They are more valuable than you think.

Anna Raccoon wants your help to stop people suing the NHS.

Ms Raccoon is ‘lying’ for parliament, where other candidates merely ‘stand’ for parliament. No matter. The legs might not work, but the brain does! WE will force parliament to end the ridiculous situation whereby NHS Litigation fund amounts to 50% of the NHS budget. That’s your cancer treatment, your wait in A & E, your hip replacement not happening because others are suing the NHS.