Although it seems unlikely that a General Practitioner make fewer mistakes than other doctors, they are overall less likely to get sued. This is likely because of the special ongoing relationship that many patients have with their GPs. Also, the vast majority of care in general practice is provided by fully-trained doctors, which contrasts with the situation in hospitals where junior doctors who are still in training provide most of the care. Even so, mistakes can and are made by GPs, and they can have long-term effects on the victims.
If you are the victim of medical negligence on the part of your GP, you should not let your relationship with them prevent you from making a claim to access the justice to which you are entitled. GPs are often our first port of call when we are ill or injured, but they are susceptible to errors just like any other medical professional, and the mistakes they make can result in serious health problems.
General Practitioner Services
GPs manage all manner of day-to-day problems and are required to have a deep understanding of ailments of all kinds, and are also expected to refer a patient to a more specialist doctor if and when required.
Core services provided by GPs include:
- Medical care for you and your family
- Preventative care and health promotion advice (vaccination and screening, for example)
- Initial assessment of all presenting problems
- Co-ordination and utilisation of secondary care services
- Advice on obtaining social service assistance
Supplementary services can include:
- Contraceptive advice
- Fitting of intra-uterine contraceptive devices
- Maternity care
- Minor surgery
- Child health surveillance
- Travel advice and vaccinations
Because GPs are required to assist with a very wide spectrum of injury and illness, the scope for error is vast. Common reasons for negligence claims against GPs include:
- Failure to visit you at home when your history suggests a possibly serious problem
- Failure to adequately examine you
- Not acting on the results of tests (such as an abnormal cervical smear result)
- Failure to communicate with other healthcare professionals, resulting in substandard care
- Failure to adequately investigate symptoms
- Failure to refer you to a specialist when necessary
- Not keeping proper records, resulting in harm
- Performing minor surgical procedures they are not competent to undertake
- Inappropriate prescribing of drugs
Because there are now so many powerful drugs available to GPs, and because prescriptions are given in at least 75% of consultations, it is perhaps unsurprising that claims for the prescribing of inappropriate or contraindicated drugs are increasing.