GP negligence cases: why are they up 20%?

GP negligence cases why are they up 20

New figures show that the number of medical negligence claims relating to General Practitioners (GPs) shot up by 20 per cent last year.

No win no fee solicitors Claims Direct can help people who have suffered medical negligence receive the compensation they need and deserve. Its website acknowledges that “the standard of healthcare in this country is usually high and we can trust our health professionals”.

So, why has there suddenly been a rise in claims?

The Medical Defence (MDU) Union, which insures half of Britain’s family and hospital doctors, revealed the increase but is at a loss to explain the statistic.

No deterioration

Jill Harding, head of claims at the MDU, said: “The current difficult economic times may be a factor. We see no evidence however of any deterioration in standards of care or in the professional relationships between our GP members and their patients.” 

The Daily Telegraph’s health correspondent Martin Beckford, writing about the rise in claims, predicts that the number of medical negligence claims is likely to fall now that the government has vowed to remove legal aid in clinical negligence cases.

Yet, only a small percentage of adults qualify for legal aid and, as the legal aid medical negligence rules have not changed over the past year this would not explain the sudden rise in claims over the past 12 years.

No win no fee medical negligence agreements have also been around far longer than a year. 

Stigma

It could well be that a series of high-profile cases over the past few years has reduced patients’ feeling of stigma about instigating legal action against GPs.

Other possible reasons for an increase in the number of incidences of medical negligence relate to the amount of pressure put on GPs to cut costs and reduce the number of referrals to hospitals.

Misdiagnosis of cancer

According to the government’s Cancer Czar, a reluctance to make hospital referrals is to blame for the fact that one-third of cancer cases in Britain are initially missed by GPs.

Reluctance to refer

Professor Mike Richards told The Telegraph last month (May 2011): “In the past, when the NHS had fewer resources, there has been some implicit encouragement of GPs to play a gatekeeping role – to limit the number of cases referred to hospital. Our message to GPs is clear: if in doubt, play it safe.”

Work pressure

The government’s spending cuts means that GPs’ workloads have become heavier and they have less time to care for patients – a recipe for making the wrong diagnosis. 

Many NHS walk-in centres, designed to relieve the pressure on GPs, are now being shut. Newcastle Central walk-in centre closed last month, despite the fact that it treated 19,591 patients last year.

With these walk-in centres closing, patient access to GPs in some parts of the UK is becoming increasingly difficult. 

The current government, like the last administration, is still keen for GPs to offer longer opening hours and weekend surgeries to patients - an issue which is traditionally a stumbling block during pay negotiations.

General Practice is arguably the most uncertain branch of medicine, where disease is seen at its earliest, most-difficult-to-diagnose stage.

It is vital that GPs get adequate support to carry out their job properly. 

Mistakes do happen, which is why Claims Direct solicitors fight so hard to ensure that patients receive the compensation they deserve.