How to pursue a GP negligence claim
General Practitioners (GPs) play a vital role when it comes to assessing and monitoring our health. As such, GPs also have a range of responsibilities with regards to correctly identifying, treating or referring any conditions they are presented with.
Unfortunately, mistakes can happen. When a GP makes an avoidable error, there is the potential for a long-lasting impact on both your physical and mental wellbeing, as well as leading to ongoing losses.
In these situations, making a GP negligence claim may be necessary to ensure that you obtain justice for the mistakes that have been made, and are able to look ahead to the next chapter of your life with confidence.
We understand that the prospect of claiming GP negligence compensation may be daunting, and you may have no idea where to start or who to turn to for advice.
In this blog, we provide clarity over the GP negligence claims process, including the types of situations where it may be possible to sue a GP for negligence, the relevant time limits for making a claim, and how much compensation you may be entitled to.
What is GP negligence?
Just like any other medical professional, a GP owes their patients a duty of care. This duty of care ensures that a GP provides a competent standard of medical treatment that is sensitive to the needs of their patient.
There are many reasons why, unfortunately, a GP may fail to uphold this duty of care, resulting in the care they provide falling below the expected standards of competence. In some cases, this can cause a patient to experience an injury or loss.
Where this occurs, the patient may be entitled to sue a GP for negligence and make a claim for compensation.
It is important to note that GPs do not necessarily have specialist areas of expertise and are instead expected to have a broad enough understanding and knowledge of medicine to provide a diagnosis or treatment. Where they lack certain expertise, or a specific treatment is required, a GP would be expected to make a referral.
GPs are also expected to correctly assess the severity of conditions in a timely manner, and to recognise where a condition would require urgent hospital treatment.
Can you sue a GP for negligence?
Understanding whether or not you may be in a position to sue a GP for negligence can be confusing and, in some cases, overwhelming.
GPs cover a wide range of different medical conditions, but there are some typical cases which could amount to GP negligence. These include, but are not limited to:
- 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)
This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor are these examples all likely to be concrete examples of GP negligence. Given the fact that the wider context of an individual situation needs to be taken into consideration, it is vital that you seek out expert advice to help clarify whether you may be able to sue a GP for negligence.
Our specialist medical negligence solicitors can offer guidance in this regard during an initial free consultation.
Many people also have certain reservations about making a GP negligence claim, particularly when they were treated by their GP under the NHS. Even where this is the case, you will have a legal right to claim compensation if the treatment provided was substandard and this caused an avoidable injury or loss.
Typically, GPs are not NHS employees, but instead provide services under a contract to the NHS. If legal action is taken against a GP, the claim is brought against the GP personally.
How do you make a GP negligence claim?
In any case, the first step in making a GP negligence claim would be to speak to one of our expert medical negligence solicitors. During an initial meeting, our team will review your case in detail, take note of what injuries or losses you have been caused and advise you on whether making a GP negligence claim would be possible.
Details such as the following are often extremely useful when it comes to assessing whether making a GP negligence claim would be possible:
- An explanation of the condition you were being treated for
- The type of the treatment or advice you received
- The time and place of the treatment
- Details of the GP and practice you were treated at
- Why you believe that the care you received was substandard
- What injury or loss was caused
- Details of any financial losses you have suffered
While every case is different, the general process of investigating a GP negligence claim is as follows:
- Our medical negligence team speak with you to find out exactly what happened with the care you were provided by your GP.
- This may include reviewing any correspondence you have already had, such as an NHS Complaint Response.
- We assess the prospects of being able to make a successful claim.
- Here, we may involve an independent medical expert to provide an objective assessment.
- If a claim can proceed and funding options have been explained, our solicitors will request any relevant medical records and witness statements.
- Leading independent medical experts will be instructed to report on the standard of care provided.
- If the evidence demonstrates that a GP was negligent, a Letter of Claim can be prepared and served to the Defendant.
- The Defendant has four months to respond to the allegations of negligence.
- If the Defendant makes a full admission of liability, the claim proceeds on a quantum only basis.
- If the Defendant disputes liability, it may be necessary to issue the claim at Court.
Can I also file a complaint about a GP?
Most GP practices will have a complaints process which you can use if you are unhappy with the treatment you have been provided.
Typically, it will be unlikely that a complaint response from a GP will lead to compensation being paid out. However, it is worth mentioning that a response from a complaint could be very beneficial when it comes to assessing whether a claim for GP negligence will be successful. Making a complaint about suspected GP negligence is a legal right and is encouraged and supported by the Government.
The importance of receiving acknowledgement and an apology for a mistake can also be extremely important for many people.
Is there a time limit for pursuing a GP negligence claim?
Yes, there are typically strict time limits in place if you plan to sue a GP for negligence. In most circumstances, you will have three years to bring forward a claim for GP negligence. This limitation period starts on the date of the injury, or the date of the knowledge of the injury.
Children under the age of 18 are exempt from the three year time limit, with this only beginning when they turn 18.
There is no limitation period when making a claim on behalf of someone who lacks the mental capacity to make a claim themselves.
How much compensation can you receive for a GP negligence claim?
The amount of compensation you could receive for a GP negligence claim will vary depending on a range of factors.
This will usually include the severity of the injuries or illness you have sustained as a result of the GP negligence, as well as any direct financial losses you may have experienced (such as an inability to work).
Our GP negligence solicitors may be able to provide a more accurate estimate of the level of compensation you may be entitled to when they initiate an investigation into the matter.
Speak to our solicitors about making a GP negligence claim
Our specialist solicitors 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. After getting in touch, you will speak directly to one of our expert GP negligence solicitors to assess your case.