General Practice doctors (“GPs”) practicing in the UK are dedicated, highly trained, professionals. Generally we can trust them correctly to diagnose and treat our medical problems and conditions. Occasionally mistakes are made and even the most experienced GP can miss, misdiagnose, delay the diagnosis or provide the wrong treatment for an illness. When that happens, unhappily the patient’s condition can become worse; sometimes much worse.

Richard Blair, Partner and Clinical Negligence Specialist at WBW Solicitors in Paignton, explains how a misdiagnosis might happen and outlines how and when patient is entitled to claim compensation in the event of medical or clinical negligence. Medical misdiagnosis can occur in a variety of ways.

For example, if the GP fails to take any or any proper and detailed history from the patient. What are the symptoms? How long have they troubled the patient? Has any earlier treatment been provided?

It may be necessary for the GP to carry out a thorough physical examination. He or she may neglect to do. Doctors are generally very busy and an examination can be overlooked or may be inadequate leading the GP to arrive at the wrong conclusions or miss the right diagnosis.

The GP might refer the patient to the wrong sort of specialist, or to the right specialist but without using the correct procedure to ensure that the patient is seen urgently if that is necessary.

Occasionally test results are misinterpreted. It is important to remember that generally GPs are not specialists. They cannot be expected to have the same degree of specialist knowledge as a Consultant or Registrar.

A diagnosis can be missed, avoidably delayed, or made incorrectly. Any of these can lead to a worsening of the patient’s condition. Often delay in diagnosis and treatment makes little if any long-term difference to the patient’s condition. From time to time however, it makes an enormous difference. The many different medical conditions which can be misdiagnosed include the following: –

  • Missed fractures
  • Missed forms of cancer
  • Meningitis
  • Various forms of infection
  • Significant head injuries.
  • Appendicitis
  • Stroke
  • Internal bleeding.

In order successfully to claim compensation as a result of clinical negligence, providing that the GP made the wrong decision is insufficient. As patient you need to prove that the GP who caused you harm acted negligently; that the duty of care they owed to you as their patient.

You also have to prove injury and loss. That is say you have to prove that had it not been for clinical negligence your medical condition and outcome would have been better than they have in fact been. You may also be able to prove that as a result you have suffered financial loss.

How a solicitor can help

A specialist medical negligence lawyer will help you bring together all the evidence you need to prove your misdiagnosis case and show that your doctor was negligent when they treated you. This includes referring you to an independent medical expert who will assess how the harm you suffered was caused and the effect it has had on your life.

Your solicitor can also help you request any further treatment you may require for your rehabilitation such as alternative medicines, corrective surgery, or physiotherapy.

They will liaise with all the GP and his or her representatives. They will try to negotiate a settlement out of court but that requires the cooperation of the other side. If a settlement isn’t going to prove possible, Court action may have to start but that should be a last resort.

The compensation you receive depends on the type and seriousness of your injuries, your long-term medical picture, the effect the worsening of your condition has had on your life and the financial losses you have suffered.  Claims are often made for : –

  • pain and suffering;
  • loss of earnings;
  • the cost of additional medical treatment or rehabilitation;
  • out-of-pocket expenses; and
  • adaptations required to your home or vehicle if either or both are justified and the need for them proven.

For more information on claiming compensation for a medical error, or any other personal injury issue, contact Richard Blair at WBW Solicitors, 63 Hyde Road, Paignton telephone number 01803 546100 or email richardblair@wbw.co.uk.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.