Proposed legislation dealing with NHS claims could indirectly lead to increased targeting of the private sector by claims management companies, according to a leading claims specialist.

The NHS Redress Bill, currently in the House of Lords, aims at providing a "quick and appropriate" response to negligence claims under £20,000. It would settle them without litigation through the NHS Litigation Authority. This would agree awards and provide explanations and apologies to patients.

But AXA claims director David Williams said: "There are large numbers of claims farmers and claimant lawyers earning a good living from NHS claims.

"If the NHS Bill limits that, they may turn their attention to drumming up claims against private businesses."

' Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, has said that the forthcoming Compensation Bill will look to stamp out the fears of a "compensation culture". He told MPs that activities such as school trips must continue, despite fears of litigation.

Falconer said that despite the compensation culture being a myth - as claims numbers were falling - there was a fear of litigation and this was preventing legitimate activities. He argued that "claims farmers" were raising expectations that easy money could be won.