Posted: August 16th, 2013
The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has published a report in which it finds that the majority of claims for GP negligence are made due to a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
The report – “The Epidemiology of Malpractice Claims in Primary Care: A Systematic Review” was published recently in the British Medical Journal after the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin had studied more than 7,000 claims for GP negligence and negligence by other front-line health practitioners around the world.
The objective of the report was to establish which areas of primary care in Ireland should receive special attention when it came to developing educational strategies and risk management mechanisms for GPs and front-line healthcare practitioners – for example doctors working in accident and emergency departments.
The key findings of the report were:-
- Compensation claims for a misdiagnosis or for a delayed diagnosis were the most common reasons for claims for GP negligence in Ireland
- The errors most frequently cited in missed diagnosis claims for GP negligence were cancer and heart attacks for adults and meningitis for children
- The annual prevalence of claims for GP negligence for missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis appears to be on the increase
The head researcher for the report – Dr Emma Wallace – admitted that reviewing claims for GP negligence may not have been a suitable substitute for accurately identifying “adverse effects” in primary care, but did point out that because of the fear of litigation GPs and front-line healthcare professionals were practising more defensively.
She found that more patients are being referred by GPs more often to consultants – potentially delaying an accurate diagnosis – because of the growing number of compensation claims for GP negligence, and that medical practitioners, against whom claims are made, are often subject to increased levels of stress which reduces their effectiveness to make an accurate diagnosis and places patients at a higher risk of suffering an avoidable deterioration of an existing condition.
Dr Wallace said that the issues identified in the report should provide an insight into the nature of adverse events in GP´s surgeries and hospital outpatients´ departments and, with better educational strategies and risk management mechanisms, subsequently reduce the number of claims for GP negligence and improve the standard of healthcare provided by front-line health practitioners.