Solicitors who offer doctors payment for the referral of patients with potential personal injury cases have been slammed by the Claims Standards Council.

Chief executive Tony Burns-Howell said it was "the worst type of ambulance chasing".

He singled out the actions of Birkenhead-based law firm Higgins & Co.

The firm recently wrote to local GPs offering them £175 for every patient they referred to the solicitor and whose case was successfully pursued.

"When someone is injured they need to have the fullest information possible, but it needs to be both objective and independent," Burns-Howell said.

But the principal of Higgins & Co, Paul Higgins, said he did not see a difference between personal injury cases and patients diagnosed with mesothelioma, who are automatically told to seek legal advice.

Higgins said the firm would take on only meritorious cases in terms of both the injury and the possibility of getting compensation for the client.

"Patients can only be referred with their consent, and will be made fully aware that a payment has been made to the GP," he said.

Law Society president Edward Nally said payments to GPs for referrals were within the rules, so long as the patient was immediately informed in writing by both their solicitor and GP that a payment had been made.