GP or Family Doctor Negligence
The relationship between a patient and their GP involves a huge amount of trust and it can be incredibly upsetting if you believe that your GP may have made a mistake. If a mistake has caused injury or if your illness has been made worse, then it can be even more difficult.
At Bolt Burdon Kemp, our specialist lawyers understand how traumatic this can be and we will help you bring a claim for compensation if you have been injured by negligent medical treatment or a misdiagnosis.
What do GPs do?
GPs are at the front line of medical services and play a crucial role in providing advice and treatment. Their role is to deal with the day to day management of your health, and to assess whether they can treat your condition or whether a referral should be made to a specialist. All of us see a GP at some time in our lives, and the relationship can be an important one in a person’s life.
What can you expect from a GP?
Often your GP is the first person you turn to when you suspect something is wrong with your health. You may have gone to see the GP with a new problem, or a recurring concern that you have. Whichever it is, you have the right to be treated appropriately.
Most GP appointments last less than 10 minutes. During this time, your GP should listen to your concerns, investigate your symptoms and provide you with appropriate advice and treatment, taking into account your medical history.
What is GP Negligence?
Unfortunately this does not always happen. In fact, the General Medical Council (GMC), which is the regulatory body for doctors in the UK, has said that they receive more complaints about GPs than any other doctors.
As your GP will often be the first person you see, if they fail to provide you with correct care, you may suffer a delay in being diagnosed and treated, or in being referred to a specialist. A GP’s negligence can have devastating consequences on the patient’s personal and professional life, causing them injuries and financial losses.
In what way can GPs be negligent?
Some of the most common reasons for GP negligence claims include:-
- Failure to sufficiently investigate patients’ symptoms – for example signs of a serious brain injury are often misdiagnosed, such as a headache, vomiting and a general feeling of being unwell. If your GP fails to take a full history of all of your symptoms, and any recent accidents you may have had, they could dismiss your symptoms as being as a result of a minor condition
- Failure to carry out a proper examination. Certain symptoms are ‘red flags’ for conditions, and require further investigation. For example intermenstrual bleeding (bleeding that occurs anytime outside of a woman’s menstrual cycle) is a possible sign of cervical cancer and requires a physical examination to be carried out. Your GP should be aware of this but may assume you have a heavy period and fail to examine you;
- Failure to refer to a specialist or for further investigations – for example, your GP will not be able to diagnose you with cancer and you will need to see a specialist for this. A breast lump in a woman under the age of 30 requires a referral to a breast clinic. However, GPs may put this down to hormones or stress and fail to make an appropriate referral;
- Failure to act upon, or misinterpreting abnormal test results – abnormal test results, such as blood results, can often be one of the first signs to indicate a problem, such as cancer or an infection. All test results should be accurately assessed and acted upon to avoid your condition becoming worse
- Inappropriate prescription of drugs or failure to review repeat medication.
Your GP should prescribe you with drugs that are likely to help and improve your condition.
However, not every drug is suitable for every patient. Taking a drug that is not suitable for you can lead to health problems getting worse, or a new condition developing. You should be warned of any risks of drugs you are prescribed, as well as side-effects. You should be reviewed at appropriate intervals;
- A mistaken or incorrect diagnosis.
Many conditions have similar symptoms, especially in the early stages, and it’s important that a GP can correctly diagnose your concerns. For example the symptoms of meningitis can often be mistaken for flu.
Failings made by GPs can lead to a delay in receiving a correct diagnosis, and getting the treatment you need. If you believe that you have suffered an injury, or your condition has been made worse by a mistake or oversight by your GP, then contact one of your specialist medical negligence solicitors who will discuss your options with you.
Making a claim against your GP or family doctor
We understand that patients may be uncomfortable pursuing a claim against their GP or family doctor. This is particularly likely to be the case if they have been a longstanding doctor.
GPs may be working privately (when you pay for your appointments and treatment) or through the NHS. They make work in GP practices, walk-in centres or at out-of-hours emergency departments.
Any patient who is injured by negligent medical treatment has a right to compensation. This does not change whether the treatment has been provided by an NHS or private GP. The GP’s insurer will represent them in a claim and act on their behalf. You will not have to discuss your case with your GP because we will represent you.
We know that patients often worry about whether their decision to make a claim will affect their ongoing treatment. Whilst it shouldn’t, we understand that you may feel uncomfortable and so prefer to change to a different GP surgery. This is entirely your choice and whatever you choose will not affect your case. However if you do wish to do this, you can either ask to see a different GP or change your GP practice.
We place a great deal of trust in GPs, so appreciate that it can be extremely distressing when the treatment they provide is substandard, leading to injury and further suffering. Our specialist medical negligence solicitors have considerable experience of bringing claims relating to GP treatment and will be on hand to help guide you through the process of investigating a claim.
If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of substandard care, please contact our medical negligence team on 020 7288 4800 or complete our online medical negligence enquiry form.