GP negligence news


Brighter Future Partner - a year on

Boyes Turner has been proud to support Meningitis Now as a Brighter Future Partner over the last 12 months. The charity is dedicated to fighting meningitis in the UK, supporting the families of those affected and funding vital research into this disease.

Over the past year we have enjoyed finding different ways to raise money to support Meningitis Now’s work, whilst raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis.

Our first event, in September last year, was the Toddle Waddle  – a sponsored walk for toddlers in Forbury Gardens in Reading.  It was a great success and raised over £700 for the charity and a reminder that these very young members of society are most at risk from the infection. It was great to see so many taking part.

As Christmas approached, the Boyes Turner medical negligence team ran two Christmas wreath making evenings. After the first evening sold out, a second was added and everybody enjoyed making  traditional festive decorations. It was great to see everyone leave with something hand-made that (hopefully) would last the entire festive season.

Then in February of this year, we continued the craft theme, with a ‘Made with Love’ fundraising event for Valentines Day, at which people could make their own Valentines Day card, create Valentine bunting and decorate their own “love mugs”, amongst other crafts.

May Mayhem provided a week of events which included a mobile ice cream trolley touring the office for our staff, a party in the park sports event, a picture quiz and a raffle.  The most sought after prize was the chocolate bouquet!

Solicitor Julie Marsh said:

“We’ve had a fantastic year supporting Meningitis Now. We would like to thank the team of organisers and everybody who has taken part in the fundraising events.”

We appreciate the life changing impact of meningitis has on individuals and their families. Those who survive the condition may experience long term physical effects of sepsis including brain injury and amputation. If you are concerned about the medical care you or a family member has received and would like medical negligence advice please contact our team on 0800 029 4803 or email

GP negligence has resulted in payouts of £28 million+ in last four years

In the past four years, the MDU (one of the UK’s main defence organisations) has paid out around £28 million to settle 17 GP medical negligence claims involving meningitis.

In one case an out of hours GP failed to refer a four year old to hospital. The child was later diagnosed with meningitis B, lost a leg and suffered severe disabilities.

Of the 17 claims, five involved out of hours consultations and two involved home visits.

Nicola Anderson, an experienced GP negligence claim lawyer at Boyes Turner, commented on the number of claims:

“Meningitis can have devastating consequences if not treated promptly. The high level of compensation is due to the cost of care, which in the case of children which will be needed for many years to come. It can be difficult for a GP to distinguish between this serious condition, and the large number of cases involving fevers and rashes which will resolve of their own accord.  This makes careful examination vitally important and, if there is any doubt, a referral to hospital must be made”.

The cancer lottery - GP delay in diagnosis of cancer

New research has established that in some parts of the country, patients with suspected cancer are three times more likely to be referred to specialists, than those in other regions. Much seems to depend on the patient’s GP.

The data was provided by the National Cancer Intelligence Network. This shows that the rate of urgent GP referrals to hospital for patients with suspected cancer ranges from under 830 to more than 2,550 in every 100,000 patients a year. The network have indicated that the variation is so wide that, at the extremes, the differing referral rates probably do reflect different standards of care.

Nicola Anderson, experienced cancer negligence claim lawyer at Boyes Turner, commented on the research findings:

“It is widely recognised that with most cancers, the earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the outcome. When a patient visits their GP with concerns, it is important that the GP follows national guidelines to determine whether or not they should refer that patient to a cancer specialist. Sometimes a referral is not necessary, but at others times it is vitally important. It is likely that the vast majority of GP’s are providing appropriate care but these figures do raise some concern. Boyes Turner are experienced in acting for clients who come to us having experienced a delay in diagnosis of cancer and who are concerned about the consequences of this.”

Man awarded £150,000 following amputation after GP negligence

A 88 year old man has been awarded £150,000 following his GP’s failure in December 2004 to diagnose an acute ischaemic episode in his right leg.

The GP diagnosed sciatica and prescribed painkillers, rather than diagnosing the condition and referring the man to hospital immediately for vascular surgery. It wasn’t until 4 days later, when the man called an ambulance, that his condition was diagnosed.

As a result of the delay in diagnosis, an opportunity was missed to treat the condition and the man had an above knee amputation, which could have been avoided if surgery had been performed earlier.

As a result of the amputation, the man lost his independent lifestyle, and had to move into single storey sheltered accommodation.

GP errors prescribing drugs highlighted by General Medical Council review

A General Medical Council review has found that GPs are making too many errors when prescribing drugs to patients.

It found that GP errors were made for one in eight patients, involving approximately one in 20 of all prescriptions. Overall, 18% of patients experienced a mistake with at least one prescriptionover the course of a year.

The study found the elderly and the young were the majority affected. For example, for those over 75 years the figure increased to 38%, possibly because many of them were on a number of various medications at the same time.

The most frequent GP error recognised was incomplete information on the prescription, followed by problems with dosage and timing of doses. Failing to make sure that patients received essential monitoring i.e. blood tests, was also a common mistake.

The majority of cases, however, were not classed as serious, with 4% of mistakes judged as severe. GP errors which were noted to be severe included situations where patients were given medication which they were allergic to, as well as a lack of monitoring of potentially dangerous drugs such as warfarin.

The report stated that many of the GP errors made were only minor and some of them would have been rectified by the pharmacist before the drugs are dispensed.

Nevertheless, it has been noted that there is clear scope for improvement and the report has encouraged better training for GPs on this issue. It also highlighted the need for improved safeguards in the prescribing system, for example increased assistance from pharmacists.

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence lawyer, Sita Vaghela commented on the review:

“We have seen many cases of medication mistakes by not only GPs, but also hospital staff and pharmacists.

In the majority of cases, the consequence of such an error is minor and would not give rise to a case of medical negligence. But there are situations where mistakes of this nature result in serious injuries and could very easily have been avoided.”

GP misdiagnosis of growth in groin

In a recent case of GP negligence, a court ruled in favour of a claimant in a following misdiagnosis of a malignant melanoma at a GP consultation.  The claimant informed the GP that he had a growth in his groin which had grown in size, itched and had bled.  The GP subsequently diagnosed a sebhorrhoeic wart.

The growth later proved to be a malignant melanoma.

Lucy Norton, Medical negligence advice lawyer at Boyes Turner, commented:

“As demonstrated by this recent clinical negligence case, a dispute of fact is very often at the heart of a clinical negligence claim.  There is the claimant’s recollection of events, such as what examinations took place and what advice they were given, against what is written and available in the medical records. However, poor note taking from medical practitioners makes things difficult as contemporaneous notes are often preferred.  However this case shows that the claimant’s account of the consultation was preferred.  We deal with many cases similar to this, where the GPs recollection is contested and the claim against the GP for medical negligence is successful”.

GP negligence: on the increase

The doctors’ regulatory body, the General Medical Council (GMC), gets more complaints about General Practitioner (GP) negligence than any other branch of medicine. In 2009, 45% of all complaints they received concerned GP negligence, though they make up only 25% of doctors.

In total, last year the GMC received 7,152 complaints about family doctors. The highest number concerned failure to diagnose or lack of referral to specialists, but other problems involved inappropriate prescribing, lack of further investigation and substandard treatment.

GP negligence claims

The Medical Defence Union (MDU), which insures more than half the UK’s GPs, says claims against them for GP negligence (including alleged misconduct and poor practice) are rising. The MDU saw 20% more cases in 2010 than in 2009, the biggest rise of all the medical professionals it represents.

Sixty per cent of the cases alleged wrong or misdiagnosis by the GP; 15% cited the doctor’s failure to refer the patient for tests or to see a specialist; and 10% complained of a mistake involving the patient’s medication. In addition, while claims involving potential damages topping £1m used to be rare, the MDU received 13 in 2010.

Complaints against GPs

New research figures show the number of written complaints about general practice in the last year increased by 4.4 per cent. In response, the MDU (Medical Defence Union) has issued advice for GP members to help them respond to dissatisfied patients.

The MDU’s top tips for responding to complaints are:

  • Ensure all complaints are investigated thoroughly. Talk to the complainant about their concerns and the outcome they expect. Have a clear management plan in place and let the complainant know how long it will take to investigate and respond.
  • Offer complainants the opportunity to meet with staff involved in the complaint, and consider the use of a conciliator.
  • Take account of the seriousness of the concerns raised, the lessons learnt by the organisation and ensure that your response is balanced and appropriate.
  • Try to remain objective. If possible, complaints should be reviewed by someone directly involved in the complaint but who is not the subject of the complaint. Consider seeking an independent clinical opinion if appropriate and the complainant agrees.
  • Be open and honest, acknowledging mistakes and distress caused by them and apologising where appropriate.
  • Have a system in place for reviewing and learning from complaints and inform the complainant of any action taken.

Claim against GP for failure to diagnose a man's cauda equina syndrome

The Boyes Turner medical negligence team secured a High Court judgement for a 40 year old man suffering from cauda equina syndrome (CES). The claim was brought against a GP following a failure by him in 2007 to diagnose and refer for this rare but devastating condition which presents with severe low back pain, sciatica, saddle and genital sensory deficit and bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. 

After High Court proceedings were started, admissions were made by the GP’s solicitors about medical negligence but the case was defended on the basis that by the time the GP was negligent the damage had been done – i.e. that he had been negligent but no injury had resulted from that negligence.

The case therefore proceeded through the Court timetable with a trial listed for July 2010 until in January 2010 the GP through his solicitors conceded that the damage would have been avoided enabling Judgment to be entered against him.

The injuries to our client are very significant and the case will now move on to valuation. It is likely to be worth a high six figure sum.

A letter of apology was received from the GP.

The service provided was first class. You were understanding, caring and professional

David Froud

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