How Can a GP Medico Legal Expert Add Weight to a Court Case?

Why expertise of a GP expert witness matter

General Practitioners (GPs) not only provide access to the wider health system for conditions requiring specialist follow up, but they also handle a great number of physical and mental health problems without the need for referral. We place an enormous amount of responsibility and weight of expectation on their shoulders to ask appropriate questions and make correct and timely decisions. Unfortunately, like medical practitioners in other fields, GPs make mistakes, and sometimes these can have serious and potentially life-threatening impacts for patients and their family members. According to NHS Resolution which handles many (but not all) clinical negligence claims, between 2019 and 2020, they processed 11,682 claims (across all claim types), of which 401 related to alleged negligence by GPs through the new Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice (CNSGP) scheme. If you are considering bringing a claim against a GP due to suspected medical negligence, engaging a GP medico-legal expert will provide considerable weight to your case if it proceeds to court; in this article, we explain why.

GP Medico Legal Expert

How a GP medico-legal expert can help a court case

It is well established that the primary duty of doctors (including GPs) is to the care and safety of patients in their care. Unfortunately, sometimes GPs do make mistakes, ranging from the inconsequential through to those that are life threatening. Negligence claims against GPs can arise for a variety of reasons including failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, or late diagnosis. Claims may also be brought due to a failure to refer to a specialist, errors made when prescribing, or in relation to treatment provided within a GP clinic. In some cases, it may not be immediately clear that an act of negligence has occurred, and if it did, it may not be obvious why. This is why the expertise of a GP expert witness is so invaluable. GP malpractice experts typically have many years of experience as a practising GP, and often they are actively practising while performing the role of a GP expert.

GP medico-legal experts will typically provide advice on matters of medical fact and matters of medical opinion. Medical fact relates to the information given by a GP legal expert, based on their specialist knowledge of having worked in the GP profession, that is a matter of fact (i.e. explaining what happened or explaining clinical notes). Medical opinion on the other hand refers to the information given which is an interpretation or inference of what happened.

GP negligence experts are highly proficient at forensically reviewing existing medical records to gain a full picture and timeline of events and highlighting where errors have been made. They also understand the level of proof needed to demonstrate to a court that the mistakes made should and would not have been made by a reasonably competent GP. Crucially, they will uncover any additional information which is consequential to a case, and carefully explain any areas which may give rise to confusion. Based on their full assessment, they will then prepare a comprehensive GP expert witness report which complies with part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules and the part 35 Practice Direction. And once the report is finalised, GP expert witnesses will attend court as a witness to present their findings.

The importance of experience gained through current GP practice

In the case of Expert Court Reports, both of our GP medico-legal experts, Dr Laura Langstaff and Dr Ajay Birly, are highly experienced and actively practising GPs. This ensures that the advice they provide reflects the latest NHS GP guidance and clinical best practice. Each of our GP expert witnesses is able to cover the full breadth of GP clinical malpractice, and they both have specific specialisms based on their clinical background and work history; including soft tissue injuries in Road Traffic Accidents, medical education, forensics, palliative care, sexual and reproductive health, and child health among many other areas. To help you select the GP medico-legal expert who is best positioned to assist you given the circumstances of your case, we publish their clinical experience, qualifications, and professional memberships on our website.

If your matter is urgent, our team of GP malpractice experts will work with you to produce an expert witness report which accurately and comprehensively reflects the case, as quickly as possible.

Final words

GP medico-legal experts can carefully piece together even the most complex cases of GP negligence and then write and present an expert witness report which not only meet the technical legal requirements of the court, but also provides medical evidence to the standard required to show that without doubt, errors were made in the treatment of the patient. From our experience, it is often the smallest of details picked up through years of clinical experience that can make the difference between expert testimony which leads to a successful outcome for a victim of GP medical negligence, and a claim that fails in court.

Speak to our experts

Expert Court Reports provides expert witnesses and medicolegal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies including the police, probation services, prisons, and third-sector organisations as well as private clients. To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form.

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