Medical Negligence

GP Negligence Claims: Understanding Your Legal Rights

April 18, 2024
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GP negligence happens more often than you might be aware of. Writing anonymously in the Guardian newspaper in 2018, one GP stated that, as a doctor, he can expect to be sued four times in his career. 

Patients rely on GPs and other healthcare professionals to provide them with the right care and treatment when they are unwell. However, in some cases, the decisions made by GPs may make their patients’ conditions worse.  

Substandard care may bring on additional health complications. If this has happened to you, you might be entitled to compensation. 

What is GP negligence? 

GP negligence is when you receive a level of care or quality of treatment that’s below what you should expect from your healthcare provider. 

The direct result of this substandard care and treatment is harm to your health and wellbeing. This may mean you develop a new condition, an existing condition worsens, or both. 

Common GP negligence cases 

The types of scenarios that lead to medical negligence cases against GPs include: 

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis: This is when a GP doesn’t identify, or takes too long to identify, a patient’s health condition. This can happen when a GP doesn’t perform the correct examination on a patient, misinterprets their symptoms, or doesn’t order the right medical tests for them.
     
  • Failure to refer: A patient’s condition can worsen while they’re waiting for the treatment they need if their GP doesn’t refer them to a specialist or for more tests soon enough.
     
  • Incorrect treatment: A patient can be harmed if their GP prescribes a treatment or course of medication without taking their medical history or allergies into account. This also includes failing to warn a patient about a treatment or medication’s potential side effects or risks.
     
  • Not getting informed consent: GPs should be clear on the course of treatment or medication they recommend, including its benefits, risks, and any alternative treatments or medications that might be suitable. If they fail to do this, they deny their patient the chance to make an informed choice about their healthcare.
     
  • Not following up: A patient’s health may worsen if their GP doesn’t monitor a patient’s progress. This includes not making follow-up calls or setting up follow-up appointments and check-ups. 

Does suing GPs for negligence happen a lot? 

Figures on GP negligence claims are held by NHS Resolution, the body responsible for handling negligence claims made against the NHS. In its first year of 2019/20, patients made 210 claims to the scheme that were settled. In 2022/23, that jumped to 1,728, an increase of 722%. 

In that year, the total value of actual and expected clinical negligence claims made through the Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice, came to £895,870,296 

This figure includes £149,870,296 of claims that the CNSGP already knows about and an estimated £746,000,000 on additional forecasted claims for that year. 

Understanding your legal rights 

If a GP’s negligence directly caused you harm or injury, you have the right to bring a claim forward to a specialist team.  

You may also be able to pursue compensation if a loved one has died through a GP’s negligence or you have a living family member who lacks the mental capacity to pursue a case without assistance.  

If you believe you or a loved one has experienced GP negligence, speak to Fletchers’ Solicitor to find out if your GP has a case to answer. Call us on 0330 013 0246 or visit our contact page.
 

Signs that you may have a claim 

There are a number of signs that indicate you may have a strong claim for GP negligence, although it is important to note that these indicators must also have caused avoidable harm in order for a case to be considered.. These are: 

  • Ineffective treatment: Your GP has prescribed you medication or a treatment that’s either not improved your condition or has made it worse. 
  • Secondary condition: The treatment or medication your GP gave you has brought on another condition that was not there before and has worsened your overall health further. 
  • Admission of error: Your GP tells you that the previous medication or treatment plan they gave you was wrong. 
  • No follow-up: Your GP didn’t do much or any follow-up with you after your medication or treatment, and you feel this has directly caused you harm. 
  • Conflicting professional opinion: You decided to get a second opinion and the other GP or doctor diagnosed you with something different or prescribed an alternative treatment or medication plan. 

If one or more of the above has happened to you, a specialist GP negligence solicitor who has experience in medical malpractice cases will be able to guide you on whether you have a claim. 

Steps to take if you suspect GP negligence 

If you’ve experienced GP negligence, you can complain directly to your GP practice. That’s best if you’re satisfied with an apology. In your letter, try to include as much information as possible about why you’re unhappy. Remember to take the opportunity to ask the questions you want answers to. 

However, if you want to pursue legal action and compensation, you should approach a specialist GP negligence lawyer. 

Most GP negligence solicitors, including Fletchers Solicitors, will represent you on a “no-win, no-fee” basis. 

Your solicitor will ask you to tell them your story in detail so they know everything that happened to you. 

From your conversation, they’ll be able to tell whether you have a legally valid GP negligence claim. If you do, then they can start the process of claiming compensation for you.
 

The legal process 

Your GP negligence lawyer will handle the three main legal stages of your case while keeping you fully informed and involved at all times. 

Gathering evidence for your claim 

The first thing your solicitor will ask for is your medical records, especially those from around the time you believe your GP behaved negligently towards you.  

Don’t worry If you don’t have them. All you need to do is give your solicitor authority to get them on your behalf from your GP. You won’t need to contact your practice. 

Building your legal case 

Next, they’ll write a summary about the experience you’ve had and ask for your help in making it as accurate as possible. 

They’ll then send the summary to outside medical experts. Your solicitor is seeking their professional opinion on the standard of care you received. These experts will provide the proof that your GP failed in their duty of care to you and there is a direct link between the treatment or medication you were prescribed and the harm you experienced. 

Agreeing your compensation settlement 

The next step is to send a letter of claim to the healthcare body. This will outline your case and request a response from the defendant. The organisation has a limited time frame in which to get back to the letter of claim. They’ll either agree that your GP was negligent or deny it. 

If they admit liability, your solicitor will start negotiating for the level of compensation you’d previously agreed with them. If they take too long to agree an outcome with your solicitor or they deny responsibility, your solicitor may send further contact, seek further evidence, or advise that your case go to court. Please note that attending court is extremely rare, and cases are usually settled through negotiation.  

Typical compensation 

There are two types of compensation you can claim for as a result of doctor negligence. The first type is ”general damages” which reflects the pain you’ve experienced. It also reflects your “loss of amenity” which is the effect it’s had on the quality of your life and covers factors like tasks you find hard to do now that were easy before. 

Special damages relate to other losses you’ve incurred as a result of GP negligence. This could include: 

  • Loss of earnings if you’ve had to leave work or reduce your hours. 
  • Medical expenses, including travel to and from treatment centres. 
  • The costs of adapting your home or vehicle so that they’re easier to use in your new condition. 
  • Care requirement – for example, if you need to pay professional carers to assist you at home. 

The amount of compensation you receive could range from a few thousand pounds to, in some cases, millions of pounds or more. The final sum all depends on the harm you’ve experienced, the severity of that harm, and the impact it’s had on your life. 

Why choose Fletchers for your GP negligence claim? 

Fletchers Solicitors understand that pursuing compensation for GP negligence can be stressful, particularly if you’ve never had much to do with the UK legal system before.  

However, our team of solicitors take care of everything. We keep you updated at every stage of the process and answer your questions so that you feel reassured about your case. 

We offer our services to you on a no-win, no-fee basis. If we’re unsuccessful in securing compensation for you, you don’t pay us a penny. If we are successful, we charge a percentage success fee of your total compensation award. 

You can speak with a Fletchers Solicitors expert free of charge to find out more on 0330 013 0246 or get in touch with our contact page 

GP negligence FAQs 

What is a failed duty of care by a GP? 

Your GP fails in their duty of care to you if they provide a substandard level of treatment to you that severely affects your health and wellbeing. 

What are the legal obligations of a GP? 

The most important legal obligation a GP has is their duty of care. They are required to treat you to the highest possible standard that’s consistent with what you’d expect from a competent and qualified doctor. This standard is sometimes called the “Bolam Test”.  

What are the chances of winning a medical negligence claim? 

Your chance of winning a medical negligence claim is much improved with the right team around you. There were 13,511 clinical cases brought against the NHS in 2022/23. In the same year, NHS Resolution, the part of the health service that handles negligence claims, settled 13,499 cases. 

Does the NHS settle out of court? 

The NHS settles most claims out of court. In 2021/22, 77% of claims made against the NHS were settled without going to court.

We can help you

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