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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Law firm offers cash for patients
Paul Higgins
Paul Higgins believes the scheme adds another layer of care to GPs
GPs are being offered cash if they refer injury victims from their surgery to a solicitor's firm.

Lawyers Higgins and Co, from Birkenhead in Wirral, has sent out hundreds of letters promising 175 to doctors each time they recommend them.

Trading standards officers in Liverpool have complained to the General Medical Council and the Law Society.

Paul Higgins, of Higgins and Co, says the scheme adds to the role of GPs as a primary carer.

Trading standards officials complained after a councillor said doctors should be worried about health, not "seeing pound signs."

Joe Anderson, leader of the Labour Party on Liverpool City Council, is raising the issue at the next council meeting.

Mr Anderson told BBC Radio Merseyside: "People have a belief that when they go to see the doctor, the only interest that doctor has is their medical condition or what they want to discuss, not the fact that the medical practitioner can see pound signs before his eyes in relation to how many clients he can pass on to solicitors."

A recent change in the rules governing solicitors in March this year allows them to share fees with third parties.

'Strict safeguards'

Mr Higgins says: "Those rules are subject to very strict safeguards and requirements that not only have I got to adhere to as a solicitor, but also they are fairer, whether that is to a GP, or another party.

"It is sometimes in the patients' interests for the GP to go one step further and perhaps recommend that they seek legal advice."

The British Medical Association told BBC North West Today that it believed doctors being offered money for compensation referrals was "inappropriate and gives the appearance of a conflict of interest."




SEE ALSO:
Is compensation culture on the rise?
24 Aug 04  |  Have Your Say
Tories to end 'culture of claims'
20 Aug 04  |  Politics
Solicitors provoke consumer fury
29 Jun 04  |  Business
Call for missed appointment fines
24 Aug 04  |  England


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