The most important recommendation is that there should be more NHS-provided rehabilitation, says Lord Hunt

The Arculus Report from the Better Regulation Task Force gives us all a real opportunity for reform. The Cabinet Office Report concludes that the compensation culture is a myth, but the cost of the commonly-held perception that it exists is the real problem.

We all know what damage was caused by those irresponsible advertisements - "Where there's blame there's a claim" and "it won't cost you a penny". Even more serious are the advertisements in hospitals "Did the doctor or nurse make you worse? We can get you compensation." The task force condemns this sort of advertising as "totally distasteful".

As David Hooker, Norwich Union's director of claims (public affairs), pointed out last month, the time is right for the introduction of a much more efficient compensation system.

David Arculus has the ear of government and his report gives us a real opportunity.

How right the report is when it concludes: "It is wrong to lead people to believe that it is someone else's fault and someone else is to blame every time something goes wrong. We all have a responsibility for our own actions and our own safety."

You will not be surprised to know that, for me, the most important recommendations are those which urge "greater NHS-provided rehabilitation".

Ministers at the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions must be encouraged to recognise the economic benefits of the NHS taking the lead in providing early and appropriate help and assistance to enable people to recover quickly.

The recent statistics on the cost of sickness and absence from work demonstrate how urgently necessary this is. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the public sector, where the government needs to lead by example.

The Better Regulation Task Force recommends a cross-departmental group to ensure joined-up government thinking and input from others outside, including the insurance industry, so that we develop mechanisms for earlier access to rehabilitation.

There are other recommendations too. Mediation should be encouraged, despite the recent court ruling in Halsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust, with litigation as the last resort when everything else has failed.

There is also a recommendation that research should be carried out into the potential impact and effectiveness of contingency fees.

The report rightly concludes that conditional fee agreements are too complicated, but there will be many who fear any move towards a US-style compensation system.

The report believes that the necessary checks, balances and controls can be introduced and there are some wise words about a more efficient system of handling claims, managing occupational health and risk.

Sadly, there are many past reports that are just gathering dust on Civil Service shelves.

This is too important a series of recommendations to suffer the same fate and we must ensure that we build on the conclusions of this report and find "better routes to redress".

  • Lord Hunt is senior partner of national law firm Beachcroft Wansbroughs.