Throughout life, we rely heavily on the medical expertise of our General Practitioners (GPs) to protect our health. Most GPs perform their role with the utmost professionalism, spotting signs of illness and recommending the best course of action. Unfortunately, each year, some do not receive the required level of care from their GP due to misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, and incorrect prescribing. According to official statistics, between 2021 and 2022, NHS Resolution received over 15,000 compensation claims, many with damages in excess of £1m. Unfortunately, behind every single case of medical negligence, there is a person who has to live with the impact of the mistakes made. GP negligence can cause injury, pain, permanent disability, and even death, causing enormous devastation for the family members of victims. This is precisely why it is so important to ensure that each case of GP medical negligence takes into account the present and future needs of those affected. In this article, we will explain what is meant by GP medical negligence and misdiagnosis, the impact on patients, and how to ensure that compensation claims achieve the best possible outcome for the victim and their family members.
Back to basics – what is meant by GP medical negligence?
Given that they are often the first point of contact for those seeking medical advice, GPs have a uniquely important role within the health service. GP medical negligence occurs when a GP fails to provide medical care to the standard required, resulting in harm to the patient. This may happen, for example, if a GP fails to spot signs of cancer or any other serious illness (e.g. appendicitis) that requires urgent medical care. Where a GP has failed to diagnose, made the wrong diagnosis, provided a delayed diagnosis, or provided the wrong form of treatment, it may be possible to bring a claim for compensation.
The consequences of GP medical negligence and misdiagnosis can be profound and far-reaching for patients. Delayed or incorrect diagnosis can lead to a worsening of the patient’s condition, unnecessary physical suffering, and even death. Furthermore, patients affected by GP medical negligence may also endure significant emotional distress and financial loss.
Establishing GP Medical Negligence
Not all cases of GP medical negligence will lead to a claim for compensation. In order to bring a claim, it is first necessary to establish that GP medical negligence occurred according to the legal definition. There are two main legal tests, as follows:
- Three-part test for medical negligenceIf legal action is taken in relation to GP medical negligence, it must be shown that a) the GP had a duty of care to the patient, b) the duty of care was breached, and c) the patient suffered harm as a result of the breach.
- The ‘Bolam’ TestThe principle established in the case of Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957) has been upheld by the House of Lords and is widely considered the appropriate test when considering the standard of care in professional liability cases. Under this principle of law, a doctor is not considered to have breached their duty if they act in a manner that is regarded as ‘proper’ by a responsible body of opinion. In other words, this test asks whether the level of care provided was consistent with that of a reasonably competent professional.
The role of GP medical negligence expert witnesses
Demonstrating that the three-part and Bolam tests have been passed to the required legal standard takes a robust understanding of GP medical practice and prior case law. Expert medical opinion is often decisive in GP medical negligence claims because it is important to show why the expected standard of care provided to the victim was not met. By referring to the evidence and clinical notes available, the expert witness will draw a clear link between the actions (or inactions) of the GP and the harm caused.
Beyond proving the existence of GP clinical negligence, expert witnesses ensure that any claim meets the needs of the victim. GP expert witnesses understand the short, medium, and long-term impact of the negligence on those affected and can provide their opinion on the compensation due. Depending on the extent of any harm caused, they will clearly set out the extent of any pain and suffering (both physical and psychological), the cost of care (past, present and future), any potential loss of earnings, and adaptations required to the victim’s home or vehicle.
While most GPs do all they can to ensure the health and well-being of their patients, incidents can and do happen. It is the right of those affected by GP negligence to receive the care and compensation needed to recover and resume normal life to the greatest extent possible. GP medical expert witnesses have the professional experience and medico-legal knowledge to help achieve the best possible outcome for those affected by clinical negligence.
How can Expert Court Reports Ltd help?
Expert Court Reports delivers expert witnesses and medicolegal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies, including the police, probation services, prisons, third-sector organisations, and private clients.