All UK residents are entitled to the services of an NHS General Practitioner (GP). GPs are doctors who usually work in the community, in the sector known as primary care.
After completing medical school, doctors training to become GPs must complete specialist post graduate training while working in hospital areas such as obstetrics and gynaecology, psychiatry and general medicine. They train to treat all common medical conditions and to recognise when patients should be referred to hospitals or other types of healthcare service, for specialist and emergency treatment. GPs also have a role in health education and preventative medicine.
However, GPs are not confined to working in primary care settings: some provide cover sessions in hospitals or work as part of a team in Urgent Care and Accident and Emergency. They may also provide services to schools and nursing homes.
There are currently around 42,000 GPs in England (according to NHS Digital) of which 34,000 are full time posts. In the UK alone there are over 1.3 million GP consultations each working day. Since the NHS reform to the GP contract, GPs are no longer required to work out-of-hours. Instead, all GP practices are linked to an out-of-hours service, which provide cover outside the normal working day.
Standards of care
The Royal College of General Practitioners operates two schemes to assess care standards of GP practices. A practice may be awarded the Quality Practice Award if it provides ‘exceptional care’, while it may receive ‘Practice Accreditation’ if it provides a wide range of ‘safe, high-quality and responsive care’.2
Every patient has a right to good quality health care which is based on best practice guidelines. You should receive drugs and treatment that is appropriate to your condition and which is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
However, despite guidelines, quality awards and their extensive training, GPs can and do make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes rise to the level of medical negligence. To establish that a GP has been negligent, it must be shown that:
· There was a duty of care
· That duty of care was not met
· Due to this breach of care, harm was caused
Cases of medical negligence cover all aspects of GP care, some of which make the national headlines.
When care falls short of expected standards
According to the Medical Defence Union which provides insurance for around 50% of GPs (the other insurer being the Medical Protection Society) claims for misconduct and poor practice are rising. The most common conditions that GPs missed or took too long to diagnosis included cancer, infection, ectopic pregnancy and fracture.
Stephanie Prior, Head of Medical Negligence has acted for hundreds of patients affected by poor and negligent practice by general practitioners.
More than 450 elderly patients died in the Gosport War Memorial Hospital as a result of being given unnecessary painkillers. Dr Jane Barton was a GP who provided clinical assistance in the wards affected. She was responsible for prescribing high dose diamorphine, through a syringe driver, which was inappropriate for the clinical conditions of the patients involved. She carried out this dangerous practice over a 12-year period. However, senior consultants who were ultimately clinically responsible for the patients were aware of her inappropriate prescribing and did nothing to intervene. Sadly, nurses raised their concerns but had been warned off. Had the hospital acted on these concerns, lives could have been saved.
A previous inquiry into the matter found that there was, ‘an institutionalised regime of prescribing and administering dangerous doses of a hazardous combination of medication not clinically indicated or justified’.3 In April 2019, police launched a new inquiry and relatives are hopeful that criminal charges will be brought against culpable staff.
Failure to refer to hospital
There are also cases when a GP fails to refer a patient to hospital in a timely manner or at all. If that failure to refer is deemed negligent and has led to injury, loss and damage then a claim can be investigated.
How to make a complaint
You have the right to make a complaint about the service you received from your GP, either in person, letter or email. You have several options which can be escalated if you are not satisfied with the response, including your local Primary Care Trust or health board. You also have the options of referring your complaint to the GMC.
How to make a claim for medical negligence
If a duty of care was owed to you and a breach in that care led to an injury, you could have a claim for compensation against the attending GP for medical negligence. At Osbornes Law we have a specialist team of solicitors who can help you decide whether or not you have a claim for medical negligence and advise you how to go about making that claim.
Our Promise to You
· We will review your potential claim by advising you on the NHS complaints procedure or other alternative procedure if your case does not relate to NHS care and treatment.
· We will not charge a fee for our time in reviewing your case.
· We can assist you with any issues that you may have regarding the complaints procedure or that you encounter in obtaining copies of your medical records.
· We will advise you of the course of action in respect of your case.
For a confidential discussion regarding your situation call Stephanie Prior on 020 7485 8811 or fill in our online enquiry form.