When GPs get it wrong

Our first port of call when we’re not well is usually our GP. And, in most cases, we’re treated effectively and sent on our way to recover.

However, there are instances when GPs get it wrong. Medical negligence – and the resulting ill health and injuries – can be the result.

How often do GPs get it wrong?

If you’re due to visit your GP, you can rest assured knowing that you’re more likely than not going to be affected by them making a mistake. Errors and negligence are a rarity.

However, there is always an exception. In 2017/18 – according to the NHS’ most recent statistics –the health service received a total of 75,782 complaints about GPs. Some 24, 676 were upheld, while 9,917 were partially upheld.

The NHS reported that the most complaints came from those aged 26 to 55, with 31,276 made in 2017/18. However, this is not surprising, given that this is the widest age range in the data available, spanning 29 years. The second highest number of complaints were made by those aged 56 to 64. Those in this range made 11,242 complaints.

Meanwhile, the fewest complaints were made by or on behalf of children between six and 17, at 2,529.

What might go wrong?

Some of the bases for patient complaints made about GPs in 2017/18 included:

  • Clinical treatment, including errors
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Not gaining consent for treatment – often through not properly explaining side effects or potential complications, therefore leaving the patient unable to make an informed decision
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Failing to refer a patient to a specialist
  • Failure to diagnose a condition
  • Prescribing errors

Risks of clinical negligence

A GP is your first stop – there to help direct you to the appropriate healthcare resources. When an error happens right at the first instance that someone seeks help, it throws all further healthcare off track.

If you’re given the wrong diagnosis by a GP, you won’t then receive the treatment you’ll need to recover. You may also find that you are prescribed a treatment that you should not be undergoing, potentially worsening your initial condition and general health.

You may also experience a delayed diagnosis, which could lead to the exacerbation of your condition. In the case of illnesses such as cancer, this could have life-threatening implications.

What to do

Who to take your complaint to can be confusing to establish. This is down to the fact most GPs are not employed directly by the NHS, but are contracted to provide these services. However, every surgery will have a process in place to deal with complaints, so you may choose to first address the surgery.

You can also choose to complain to NHS England about the service you have been provided with. The organisation is responsible for GPs contracts and ensuring they’re carrying out the terms of the contracts.

But if you have suffered an injury as a result of medical negligence, you may want to instruct a solicitor to help you take action against those responsible. You may find that you’re entitled to compensation for the suffering you have been through.

Image copyright: Cathy Yeulet.