GP negligence compensation claims
General Practitioners are usually the first port of call when a patient develops an illness. If a GP fails to recognise the need to refer a patient to hospital or to a specialist for further investigations, there can be serious consequences for the patient. In some cases, a medical negligence claim could be made.
Common GP errors
Sometimes the failure to recognise the significance of infection, which could be meningitis and other acute symptoms including chest pains, results in avoidable out of hospital cardiac arrest. At other times, the failure to refer may take place over a long period of time during which a patient may visit the GP a number of occasions complaining of symptoms (for example, breast lumps, changes in bowel or bladder habit or headaches etc) with no referral being made for investigations. In the more serious cases, these delays may affect the patient’s treatment and, in the case of cancer, potentially reduce the chance of survival.
Failure to refer back to hospital
Where a patient has treatment in hospital, they are subsequently discharged back into the care of their GP. This can be for out-patient emergency care eg following an x-ray for a suspected fracture or for protracted care, perhaps with the assistance of the community nursing team following surgery and a stay as an in-patient.
Claims commonly pursued against GPs include circumstances where there is a suggestion of failure or delay in referring the patient back to hospital eg for a repeat x-ray for ongoing pain or further tests or follow up. Claims against hospitals may be complicated by concurrent treatment from GPs.
A GP can remain in charge of patient care and take over the follow-up when a patient is discharged from hospital. The remit and responsibility of a GP is extensive.
Treatment: medication errors
Longer term care from a doctor may result in errors eg a reduction or a change in long term medication for a condition or leaving a patient on repeat prescription for too long with inadequate monitoring or failing to refer a patient to a consultant for advice in a case involving a chronic condition.
Diabetic or asthma management
GPs are increasingly involved in the management of chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma. This may be in conjunction with either a specialist diabetic team and local podiatry or a trained specialist practitioner for asthma. GPs are sometimes consulted by patients who present with acute symptoms eg an ulcerated toe or foot. Failing to refer appropriately in these circumstances could lead to avoidable harm. For asthma, this could involve inadequate monitoring.
A compensation claim against a GP can be particularly emotive, as many people remain with the same GP for many years and develop a particularly close relationship of trust.