When most of us feel ill or under the weather, our first port of call us generally our GP. They’ll set our mind at ease, prescribe the best medication or else refer us on for more focussed expert help elsewhere. At least, this is what we hope will happen and it is, in fact, the way things play out the vast majority of the time.
Doctors are only human, however, and this means that sometimes they’re going to make mistakes or perform in a manner which is less than fully competent. When this happens to you it can feel like a huge betrayal of trust, as well as potentially having very serious ramifications for your on-going health, and this means that it’s not something you should merely put up with. When a GP makes these mistakes, and any personal injuries inflicted are the result them taking action that is not standard procedure, then GP negligence may have occurred.
A quick investigation reveals that complaints about GPs are perhaps not quite as rare as we’d hope they’d be. According to the General Medical Council (GMC), they receive more complaints about GPs than about anything else. What’s more, the Medical Defence Union, which insures over 50% of the GPs in the UK says that the number of medical negligence claims per year is rising and that the bulk of these cases involve a delayed or mistaken diagnosis. Other causes for complaint include a rude or unpleasant attitude, mistakes when prescribing and issues around confidentiality.
If you feel that your GP has treated you in a negligent manner, and that this treatment resulted in your injury, then call a trained legal adviser on 0800 234 6438, or use the online claim form. The injury in question may be as obvious as an illness which ought to have been diagnosed originally, but which has now become far more serious, or it may be psychological in nature, brought on by the distress and anxiety of being badly treated by a GP whom you turned to for help at a vulnerable time.
Making a case for compensation will consist of demonstrating that the GP in question behaved in a manner which fell below the expected professional standards, and that this resulted in harm to your person. Medical negligence claims of this kind are amongst the most complex and difficult personal injury claims to pursue, which is why it’s imperative that you employ the services of an expert personal injury lawyer.
Proving the case one way or the other may well involve complex medical arguments and conflicting expert opinions. All of this may seem a trifle daunting, but your solicitor will be by your side every step of the way, answering and asking all the right questions and gathering the evidence needed to prove your case.
It’s hard to avoid lurid headlines claiming that the number of compensation claims being made against the NHS poses a threat to its’ financial stability. Many patients, when faced with negligent treatment, may hesitate to make a claim because of this perception. It’s worth examining, therefore, the actual numbers of patients who make a complaint of negligence when compared to the numbers treated, and the contrast between the vast bulk of people who are perfectly satisfied with their treatment and those few who have been left with no option but to seek compensation.
The sheer size of the NHS makes it inevitable that things will sometimes go wrong. Over 1.7 million people work in the health service, making it one of the top five largest employers in the world, along with the US Department of Defence, McDonalds, Walmart and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Given these statistics, it is actually both remarkable and reassuring that things go wrong as rarely as they do.
According to an aggregation of patient survey results, between January-March 2017, 84.8% of patients rated their GP experience as being either ‘very good’ or ‘fairly good’, whilst 82.8% felt they were treated with care and concern.
All of this helps to put the number of claims for medical negligence that are actually made into perspective. According to the body which handles claims on behalf of the NHS, NHS Resolution, the number of claims made for medical negligence during 2018-19 was 10,678, an increase of just five claims on the previous year.
Although the number of claims is holding steady in the 10,000s, this is against a backdrop of over 250 million patient visits to the NHS during the same period, which means that the number of claims for negligence represented a mere 0.004% (rounded down) of total patient visits. The size of this figure should reassure anyone who feels they have grounds for a negligence claim against their GP that they are not jumping aboard some kind of bandwagon. On the contrary, if you’ve been let down by your GP then you’re in a tiny minority, and that’s just one more reason why such negligence is so shocking and stressful and needs to be recognised via an award of compensation.
The amount awarded annually in compensation by the NHS is a reflection of the complexity of such cases, and of the sometimes drastically life-changing impact of negligent medical treatment.
The fact that you have a right to pursue claims following negligent treatment by the NHS is, in fact, enshrined in the organisation’s constitution. This states that you not only have a right to have your complaint heard and dealt with, but also to receive compensation if you’ve been harmed as a result of negligence.
If you receive compensation it will be calculated using a formula based upon the nature of your injury and its severity. On top of this you’ll receive an amount designed to cover your financial losses. It may be that this covers fairly simple matters such as money spent on taxi fares or medication, but in many cases it will also take any earnings lost into account, both immediately following the incident and in the future.
Some people hesitate to claim against the NHS through a misplaced sense of loyalty. The truth of the matter, however, is that you’ve been let down by someone you placed a huge degree of trust in. This can have a devastating physical and psychological impact and a hugely detrimental effect upon your life, and it’s wrong that you should be expected to cope with this on your own. If you work with an expert solicitor when making a claim, then you won’t be on your own.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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