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Articles General Surgery 24th Jun 2017

Freeths Guide to GP Claims

Are you concerned that you may have been harmed as a result of inadequate care from your General Practitioner? Do you think you may have a GP claim? Loss of confidence between GP and patient is particularly distressing, because most people expect to have a long term professional relationship with their GP. A GP is meant to be effective in treating minor illnesses, a support in living with a long term condition, and a gateway to specialist care when that is necessary.

Unfortunately, with an average of 6000 patients for each GP surgery there is more pressure than ever on doctors to meet their patients’ needs. Some GPs see more than 100 patients a week. This means they can only spend 5 minutes or so with each one and if a consultation takes longer than that, the next appointments may have to be rushed.

It is understandable that sometimes the care provided by GPs may not be as good as you are entitled to expect; this is clinical negligence. Unfortunately, the result of inadequate care can be serious.

If you are in this situation you may be thinking about making a GP claim for clinical negligence. If your health has been compromised by inadequate care from your doctor, you are entitled to bring a GP claim.

If I make a GP claim will if affect my future care?

Your GP does not have the right to refuse to treat you simply because you have brought a GP claim, although you may feel more comfortable in seeking an alternative health care provider. This could mean changing your GP practice, which should be a straightforward process, or simply seeing a different doctor within the same surgery.

What can I claim?

The value of your claim will depend on a number of factors including:

  • The problems that you have encountered as a result of the failures in your treatment
  • The amount of care that you needed
  • The expenses that you have incurred

Types of GP claim

We have investigated many GP claims – common concerns are:

  • Misdiagnosis eg meningitis misdiagnosed as flu
  • Failure to diagnose
  • Delayed treatment or failure to treat
  • Incorrect treatment
  • Failure to refer to a specialist
  • Prescription errors – mistakes are sometimes made when prescribing drugs and people can be given inappropriate medicines. Another common problem is when serious side effects of drugs are not made clear to patients.

We understand that contemplating a GP claim may not be easy, particularly when you still want to attend the same GP practice. We will advise you of what would be involved, alternative courses of action and your legal rights to treatment.

Our experience of dealing with GP claims

Failure to check blood pressure
Mr M had his blood pressure checked by his GP and it was noted to be on the high side. He was seen by his GP on 15 occasions over a 7 year period but his blood pressure was never re-checked. As a result of Mr M’s untreated hypertension he suffered a small stroke and further wide-spread subtle brain damage, due to small vessel disease.

GP claim settled for £675,000.

Failure to refer – testicular cancer
Mr P attended his GP on 2 separate occasions complaining of a lump on his testicle. His GP reassured him that all was normal and that there was nothing to worry about. Several months later Mr P was still concerned about the presence of the lump and attended an appointment with another GP at the same practice. Following this appointment Mr P was referred to hospital for further investigation. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Mr P would have required treatment for testicular cancer in any event but he would have avoided one cycle of chemotherapy if the cancer had been diagnosed sooner.

GP claim settled for £15,000.

Failure to refer – Deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism
Following return from a holiday abroad Mr F experienced pain in his right leg and groin. Within a few days he developed breathlessness. Mr F telephoned the out of hours GP who advised him to come in for an appointment. Despite the claimant’s symptoms, and the fact that Mr F had travelled by plane a few days before, the GP ignored the warning signs of possible DVT and instead diagnosed a viral infection.

After Mr F’s condition worsened he was admitted to hospital as an emergency. He had pulmonary emboli. He suffered several cardiac arrests and developed renal failure. Fortunately Mr F made a good recovery.

It was alleged that the out of hours GP should have referred Mr F for further investigation and treatment given that his symptoms suggested DVT/ pulmonary emboli. If he had received reasonable care he would have avoided the cardiac arrests and renal failure.

GP claim settled for £20,000.

M v Dr W (2006)
Mrs M claimed damages following her GP’s failure to refer her for further investigation that would have led to an earlier diagnosis of breast cancer. The claimant underwent a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and required breast reconstruction surgery. Had her condition been diagnosed sooner she would have avoided radiotherapy.

GP claim settled for £27,000. For more information see our case report.

If you think that you may have a GP claim, please contact our clinical negligence team at Freeths.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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