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General medicine and claims against GPs

In many cases, contact with a General Practitioner is the most likely, and sometimes the only way, a patient will come into contact with the health service.   The General Practitioner has a special place in our healthcare system – in fact they are not employees of the NHS but play a crucial role within it.

Amongst all the medical disciplines, it is the GP or family doctor that has an especially close and trusted, long term relationship with the patient.  As they are specialists in having a wide knowledge of medicine, they have to use their skills, judgment and experience to decide when it is safe not to refer to a specialist for help and when help is needed, sometimes urgently.  This is a great responsibility and failures of judgment can have drastic consequences in terms of outcome.

Cases against GPs have certain recurring features.  For instance, the consultation between doctor and patient is almost always conducted between just two people.  In hospital cases decisions and actions occur in a team environment.   This feature concentrates attention onto what the GP records in the notes of the consultation and to what the parties recall of the consultation.  Usually, it is the patient that will have the better recollection of these particular conversations.

Sometimes episodes of GP care will be precede or punctuate periods of hospital care.  Sometimes the facts can be complicated and can present difficult legal issues in terms of responsibility after a poor outcome.

Most, if not all GP cases will involve the need to consult with independent specialists as expert witnesses on the issue of causation. That is the answer to the question of what the outcome ought to have been with sooner treatment.

Our experience of these cases is large and include cases of:

  • Errors in treatment of cancer cases
  • Failure in urgent treatment of meningitis in infants
  • Fatal failure to diagnose diabetic ketoacidosis

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