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Misdiagnosis Claims

GP Negligence Claims

What is GP negligence?

When we experience worrying symptoms, for most of us our first port of call is our GP surgery. GPs are highly trained medical professionals, working both in NHS trusts and in private surgeries, and as generalists are expected to fulfil a number of crucial duties.

Duties of a GP for GP negligence claims solicitors - Infographic

Every day thousands of people visit their doctors expecting to find out if anything is wrong and, if necessary, offer treatment to cure or manage the problem. Or, when this is not possible, be referred to the appropriate specialist in the appropriate time-scale.

The vast majority of the time, our GPs carry out these vital tasks competently, helping to resolve our concerns. However, if the care they provide is substandard, they make mistakes or they fail to act on signs and symptoms, and this has negative consequences for their patients, they may be liable for negligence.

 

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When might a GP be considered negligent?

GPs owe a reasonable duty of care to their patients, whether they diagnose and treat their condition personally, or refer them to a specialist for further examination, investigation, diagnosis and treatment. There are several circumstances where this duty of care to the patient may be breached:

Misdiagnosing conditions

Many GP negligence claims involve cases where a patient’s condition has been wrongly diagnosed, and this has led to a significant delay in the patient receiving the treatment they need.

The law does not expect GPs to always be able to diagnose conditions. The human body is complex, and sometimes more than one disease or condition will present with the same or similar symptoms. However, they are expected to take reasonable action based on the symptoms described and any physical signs present.

For example, if your doctor notes down your persistent cough, but does not consider your sore throat and shortness of breath, this could mean that you overlook potentially serious diagnoses, do not perform certain tests and/or do not refer for further examination.

Failing to adequately examine a patient, investigate symptoms or perform relevant tests can all lead to misdiagnosis claims. The delay caused by a misdiagnosis can lead to symptoms getting worse, causing additional suffering and, sometimes, extensive or invasive treatment.

For some, an inaccurate diagnosis can significantly affect their prognosis and impact upon their future life choices, particularly if this involves misdiagnosis of cancer, heart problems, brain haemorrhage and diseases such as meningitis.

Failing to act on test results

Similarly, should a GP perform the relevant diagnostic tests, but then fail to appropriately address the results of these, this could also be considered negligent.

This may be failing to notice any problems displayed in test results, not informing you of results that require further action, or not passing along results to the relevant specialists for further examination.

Mistakes made during testing or treatment

If a GP accidentally makes an error while performing tests or treatments, this can lead to a medical negligence claim, depending on the severity of the injury and the long-term repercussions.

Delaying referral to a specialist

Whether this is due to a misdiagnosis, misreading test results or any other reason, if your GP delays referring you to a specialist, this can be considered negligent.

For example, in England you should be referred to a specialist within two weeks if a GP suspects that you may have cancer. If this is unreasonably delayed, the additional waiting time could cause your illness to progress, changing your treatment options and prognosis compared to if you had been seen at the appropriate time.

Prescription errors

Annual prescription errors account for 21% of 237 million medication errors in England - infographic of medical negligence facts

Of course, in the vast majority of cases, these errors are resolved quickly, without any harm being caused. However, prescription errors can occasionally have significant repercussions, such as:

  • Causing allergic reactions
  • Conflicting with other medication a patient is taking
  • Not being appropriate for the patient’s physical condition
  • Being too high a dosage, leading to side-effects
  • Delay into resolving the health problem

Poor record-keeping

If a GP, doctor or any medical professional does not keep accurate, up-to-date records, this could lead to symptoms, signs, test results and more being overlooked. If this happens, you may not receive the treatment or further examination you would have if your records had been kept in order.

Furthermore, if your GP fails to keep your medical records up-to-date, this could lead to issues later on if you switch GP surgeries. Without accurate information on your current health and medical history, a new GP may prescribe something or treat you in a way that is inappropriate in your circumstances.

Not offering safety-netting

Your GP should always give you a considered diagnosis based on your symptoms and physical signs, and inform you of how they anticipate their proposed treatment will resolve your problem. They may think that you have a condition which will resolve and so suggest to you that, if your symptoms persist and your health does not improve, to come back to see them at a later date.

This is called ‘safety-netting’, ensuring patients are aware that they should come back if things do not get better. If a GP simply reassures you that everything will be fine, and your condition does not improve, they may be considered negligent for not informing you of what to do next if their initial diagnosis was incorrect.

Why you should hold GPs and doctors accountable for negligence

We understand that it may feel somehow wrong to claim against a GP or doctor for negligence. Our healthcare professionals do great work every day to look after people’s health and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, these actions were genuine mistakes, with no harm intended to their patients.

However, that does not reduce the long-term physical, emotional and financial consequences you or a loved one may face, or the vital role that compensation can play in helping you adapt to the changes to your lifestyle.

Holding healthcare professionals accountable for negligence through medical negligence claims not only ensures that you and your family gain the financial security you deserve – it can also spur on action and initiatives that prevent what happened to you from happening to anyone else in the future.

How do I prove that my GP was negligent?

If you believe a GP failed to provide you or your loved one with a reasonable standard of care, we will thoroughly investigate your claim to establish whether you received negligent treatment.

For any medical negligence claim to be considered, we need to answer three essential questions:

  1. Did your GP breach their duty of care that they owed you?
  2. Did you suffer pain, injury, loss or damage?
  3. Was your suffering a direct result of your GP’s negligence?

To answer these questions, our specialist medical negligence solicitors will assess all evidence available to us, which may include:

We also work with impartial, independent GPs, both actively working in medicine and having a firm grasp of the legal and medical tests we require. Their expertise will inform us of whether your GP’s actions or inactions fell below a reasonable standard, and if this directly impacted on your health, treatment options and prognosis.

In addition, you may believe that your GP’s account of what they told you or how you were treated is inaccurate. In these circumstances, we can obtain an audit of the records your GP took at the time of your appointment, to assess whether they reflect what they claim happened.

How can compensation help following GP negligence?

With over 25 years experience supporting compensation claims in Essex and East Anglia, we understand how devastating the consequences of GP negligence can be.

It could be that the delay in diagnosing and treating your condition results in several further months of pain and discomfort. A condition that could have been easily resolved with medication now requires surgery, placing you at greater risk and requiring you to take time off work.

At the other end of the scale, negligent treatment by your GP could have significant, long-term repercussions:

  • Your health may be permanently affected, such as a loss of mobility or ongoing fatigue
  • You may require more substantial, long-lasting treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy due to a cancer misdiagnosis
  • You may now have an unfavourable prognosis, such as a reduced life expectancy or being confined to a wheelchair

However GP negligence affects you, our medical negligence team will take the time to understand how you and your family have been affected by what happened.

This ensures that you receive the compensation you need to put you back in the position you should be in had you received appropriate treatment. Or, where this is not possible, to help you make your future as secure, comfortable and fulfilling as it can be.

The compensation you receive following a GP negligence claim can cover a variety of costs, including (but not limited to):

  • Loss of earnings
  • Procedures and surgeries
  • Ongoing treatments and therapies
  • Adaptations to the home or vehicle
  • Aids and equipment
  • Necessary travel expenses
  • Psychological therapies

What is the average settlement for a GP negligence claim?

Due to the range of outcomes that can occur as a result of GP negligence, there is no such thing as an ‘average’ settlement for these types of claims.

The amount of compensation you are entitled to depends on your unique circumstances – how has your health been affected? How did your treatment options change? How is your life different compared to how it should have been?

We will work closely with you to determine the answers to these questions, and speak to relevant experts to make sure we pursue the compensation you deserve.

Where do I start with a GP negligence claim?

After being let down by a healthcare professional you trusted implicitly, we know it can be hard to place your faith in another professional.

At Gadsby Wicks, we ensure that your trust is never misplaced. We have the expertise and experience to support you through every step of the claims process, so you achieve a successful outcome.

How long do these claims take to settle?

Each GP negligence claim is unique, and we build your case around you and your wellbeing. This means we cannot tell you how long your claim will take to settle.

Depending on how intricate and complex your claim is, the stance taken by the defendants, and how long it takes to receive reports from medical experts, it is common for claims to take several years to reach final settlement.

How long do I have to make a claim?

Like any form of medical negligence claim, there is a three-year time limit for starting court proceedings. However, there are exceptions to this rule – including claimants under the age of 18 have until their 21st birthday to make a claim, while claimants who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions have no time limit to launch a claim.

It is also important to note that the three-year limit starts on the claimant’s date of knowledge. This is when they could reasonably be expected to know that there was something wrong with them. It may take several months or years for a GP’s negligence to affect someone’s well being, so this ensures you still have the right to make a claim.

If your injury did occur over three years ago, we would still urge you to contact us. The Court does have an ultimate discretion to allow a claim to be brought, even if it is out of time.

We have been trusted with handling GP negligence claims since 1993. If you need our solicitors to represent you, we’re only a phone call away.

Why choose a Gadsby Wicks medical negligence solicitor?