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GP Negligence

General Practitioners (“GPs”) are often the first port of call when we have concerns and problems with our health.  It is important that GPs correctly identify symptoms and either treat a condition themselves or correctly refer a patient to a specialist. 

Our medical negligence solicitors are top-rated for their work and regularly investigate GP Negligence claims for substandard medical care and obtain compensation for our clients. Speak to our expert lawyers today on 0113 245 8549.

  1. What is GP Negligence?
  2. When is a GP negligent?
  3. How Does A GP Assess A Patient’s Condition?
  4. When Will A GP Refer You To Specialist Doctor?
  5. Examples Of GP Negligence
  6. How do I complain about my GP?
  7. Why Choose Our Solicitors To Help You?
  8. Can I Sue My GP For Negligence?
  9. Can I Report My GP To A Professional Body?
  10. Are There Time Limits For Suing My GP?
  11. What Is The Process For Doctor Negligence Claims?
  12. How Do I Contact Your Lawyers?

1. What is GP Negligence?

A GP, like a Hospital doctor, owes their patient a duty of care to provide them with a reasonable or competent standard of medical treatment.  If, for whatever reason, this care falls below that standard and causes a patient to suffer an avoidable injury and loss, a Clinical Negligence claim for compensation may succeed.  The standard of care is judged against that which a reasonable body of other GPs would provide.

2. When is a GP Negligent?

If a GP provides care below a reasonably competent standard and this causes a patient to suffer from an avoidable injury and loss, negligence may be established. 

GPs are “General Practitioners” rather than specialists in certain areas of medicine which means they are trained and expected to have a broad general knowledge of medicine and should be able to either provide a diagnosis and treatment (typically for more straight-forward conditions such as coughs and colds) or refer a patient to a specialist doctor if the diagnosis of a condition is not clear or specific treatment is needed (cancer treatment is one of the clearest examples where referral is needed).

It is important that a GP correctly assesses the severity of any condition and refers a patient for specialist review or treatment in an appropriate timeframe.  Conditions that require urgent specialist Hospital treatment would include, for example, a child with suspected meningitis or an adult with suspected stroke or heart symptoms.  

3. How does a GP assess a patient’s condition?

A GP should take a detailed history from the patient, carry out a careful examination, if appropriate, and arrange for basic investigations, such as blood tests, if needed. 

In most cases a GP will be able to provide advice and treatment in their surgery and might well issue a prescription for medication as well.  It is important that a GP explains to their patient the advice given, the diagnosis and treatment provided and, crucially, when a patient should come back for a follow up GP appointment, particularly if their symptoms persist.  Timeframes for this should be explained.   

4. When will a GP refer you to Specialist Doctor?

When a GP is unable to diagnose and treat a medical condition (usually because it is severe, requiring urgent treatment, or because previous treatment has not worked) they may refer a patient to see a specialist doctor at a Hospital to help investigate what is wrong, with tests and specialist assessment, so a diagnosis can be made and, if possible, treatment provided to the patient to try and cure their problem.

Acting quickly is often very important when a referral to a specialist is made.  The GP should ensure that the referral letter is sent promptly or, if it is a medical emergency, such as a child with suspected meningitis, the GP should telephone the Hospital directly to explain what is happening and the suspected diagnosis.  In such cases, a patient may be sent straight to Hospital or the GP will arrange for an ambulance. 

In less urgent referral situations, once the GP has sent a referral letter, the Hospital should write to the patient (copying in the GP) with confirmation of an appointment. 

After the patient has been seen by a specialist Hospital doctor, that doctor should write to the GP explaining what has been done, the diagnosis and treatment provided to the patient and whether further appointments and follow up are needed. 

It is important that a GP keeps up to date with their patients following a referral by keeping clear and proper patient medical records and ensuring letters from Hospitals are correctly checked and acted upon as appropriate.  The GP is in overall charge of a patient’s treatment (this is often not known by patients) so keeping up-to-speed is a crucial responsibility and one of the most important areas of a GPs daily practice.  This is why a patient will consult their GP if they want a second opinion from another specialist doctor so that the GP can arrange for a further referral through them.    

Patients who have private medical insurance or are prepared to pay for treatment themselves should make sure the GP is aware of this and ask for a referral to a private consultant or private hospital, if appropriate.  Their GP should then follow up any diagnosis or treatment provided in the same way as any NHS treatment. 

5. Examples of GP Negligence

GP work covers a broad range of different medical conditions but we have set out the typical types of cases where a patient can successfully sue a GP for negligence:

  • Incorrect diagnosis
  • Providing the wrong treatment for a suspected medical condition
  • Failure to refer a patient to a specialist doctor
  • Delay in making a referral or not choosing to make an urgent referral request  
  • Providing the wrong prescriptions    
  • Failing to follow up patients and re-assess the need for further treatment
  • Failing to arrange basic tests (blood tests, for example).

These are the common reasons why clients have contacted us to see whether they are able to sue for Negligence.  There are likely to be other types of GP Negligence cases and our legal experts would be very happy to speak to you about these.

6. How to complain about your GP?

Click here to read our dedicated page on the NHS Complaints process, which specifically includes information on making a complaint about your GP.  Most GP Practices will have information about their Complaints Process on their website, within their surgery or, failing that, available by speaking to the Practice Manager. 

It is very unlikely that a Complaint response from a GP will on its own lead to compensation being paid out but this response may well by very helpful to assess whether a claim for compensation for negligent GP treatment can be pursued by explaining what happened with a patient’s treatment.  A GP Complaint response may also offer a patient an apology which, for some patients, is the resolution they want.

It is important to raise concerns about poor GP treatment so that GPs can learn from and avoid making similar mistakes in the future.  Complaining about suspected GP Negligence is a legal right and encouraged and supported by the Government.

7. Why choose our solicitors to help you?

Our lawyers are top ranked for medical negligence claims in the prestigious Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners rankings.  We have a wealth of experience with many of our solicitors practising in this specialist area of law for over 25 years.  Click here for more information about our team and call us today to discuss your GP negligence claim.  You will speak directly to one of our expert lawyers to assess your case. 

GP Negligence Case Studies

Our top medical negligence solicitors have successfully pursued many different GP Doctor Negligence Claims over a number of years.  These are just a few examples:

Leonard (name changed to protect confidentiality)

What happened?

Leonard, a 4 year old child, was taken to his GP on two occasions over the course of a week in December with a prolonged cold, temperature, poor feeding and general irritability.  At the first appointment, the GP reassured Leonard’s mother than he was suffering from a cold and told that he needed plenty of rest and fluids to recover. 

Leonard’s condition deteriorated so his mother took him back to the GP 2 days later because his symptoms had worsened and he was now making an unusual grunting sound as well as irregular head movements.  The same GP thought that Leonard had meningitis and told his mother to take him to Hospital for specialist review.

Leonard’s mother was not a native English speaker.  The GP had not made it clear to her that she needed to take Leonard directly to Hospital so she instead went home, made arrangements for child-care for her other child, and then took Leonard to the Hospital some 3 hours later. 

Leonard was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and was almost immediately started on intravenous antibiotics by a specialist paediatrician at the Hospital.  This treatment prevented him from suffering catastrophic brain damage but he did sadly suffer the loss of his hearing in one ear and more subtle problems with his balance.

The Investigation

We investigated the standard of care provided to Leonard by his GP.  An independent GP expert was instructed and reported that the GP should have telephoned the Hospital with her suspected diagnosis; should have arranged for an ambulance to take Leonard directly there and should have made the severity of Leonard’s condition clear to his mother by explaining the urgency of the situation. 

Other experts were instructed and reported that if Leonard had arrived at Hospital earlier, the loss of hearing and balance issues sustained would have been avoided.

The claim was put to the GP and following their investigation an admission of liability made.  The GP Negligence compensation secured for Leonard was substantial and will enable him to benefit from hearing aid technology and support and care for life. 

For more information about Meningitis compensation claims click here.

Roger (name changed to protect confidentiality)

What happened?

Roger, 55 years old, attended his GP in 2013 about a lump on his head.  The GP diagnosed it as a harmless cyst but because it was irritating Roger the GP removed it. The removed material was not sent for histological testing to check for cancer. 

It 2014 Roger returned to the GP complaining about another lump on his head in the same area as the suspected cyst removed on 2013.  It was again diagnosed as another suspected harmless cyst and again removed by the GP to stop irritation.  A histological report was again not requested to test for cancer from the lump material. 

In 2015 Roger was referred to a specialist doctor at Hospital by his GP because of unusual pains in his head and swollen lymph nodes in his neck.  Investigations, including a biopsy of the original lump area, were carried out and Roger underwent explorative surgery to try and find out what was wrong. The diagnosis was cancer.

Roger had more surgery and radiotherapy but it was unsuccessful. He died in 2016.

The investigation

We instructed a GP expert to report on the standard of GP care Roger received.  It became very clear that Roger’s GP should have obtained histological tests on both of the lumps removed in 2013 and 2014.  An expert is cancer confirmed that if these histology tests has been correctly requested they would have identified cancer.  This would have led to a diagnosis and treatment before the cancer progressed. 

Roger would not have died with earlier diagnosis and treatment.

After protracted discussions with the GPs professional indemnifier the Fatal Claim for compensation pursued through Roger’s Estate and his wife settled for substantial damages for compensation.  Click here for more information about Fatal Claims. 

8. Can I sue my GP for negligence?

You have a legal right to claim compensation from your GP if the treatment they provided was sub-standard and caused you to suffer an avoidable injury and loss.

Most patients are treated by their GP under the NHS; however GPs are not usually NHS employees but instead provide services under a contract to the NHS. If legal action is taken against a GP, the claim is not brought against any NHS body but against the GP personally.  GPs, in turn, have professional indemnity insurance through membership of one of the medical defence organisations. 

Medical defence organisations such as Medical Protection Society or Medical Defence Union, will investigate any claim made against their GP members and, if they feel the claim cannot be defended, will be responsible for paying compensation.

9. Can I report my GP to a professional body?

You can report a doctor to the General Medical Council if you have concerns about the standard of treatment they are providing.  The GMC may then investigate these.

Click here for more information about making a complaint to the GMC.

10. Are there time limits for suing my GP?

Yes, you typically have 3 years to investigate a claim for GP Negligence compensation.  Click here for information about time limits for negligence claims.

11. What is the Process for Doctor Negligence claims?

As with all medical negligence claims we would need to investigate what happened with your GP treatment and, with independent expert evidence, determine whether any mistakes or delay in referral by your GP led to you suffering an avoidable injury.

Click here for more information about Pursuing and Funding your Claim. 

In some more rare cases GP Negligence can lead to an avoidable death (see Rogers’ case study above).  If this has happened to someone you know we can help.  We have a specific information page on Fatal Claims found by clicking here and on Medical Negligence Inquests found by clicking here

Alternatively, call us to speak with our lawyers directly.

12. How do I contact your lawyers?

Call us on 0113 245 8549 or complete the form below and we will call you back.

 

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