Posted: July 23rd, 2013
A report published in the British Medical Journal has identified that the misdiagnosis of injuries and illnesses is the most common cause of claims against GPs for compensation.
The report – “The Epidemiology of Malpractice Claims in Primary Care: A Systematic Review” was prepared by the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) and studied more than 7,000 claims against GP for compensation from Ireland and elsewhere around the world.
The report´s objective was to determine which areas of primary care in Ireland should receive special attention when it came to developing educational strategies and providing risk management mechanisms for front-line healthcare professionals including GPs and doctors working in hospital emergency departments.
The primary findings in the RCSI report were:-
- Claims against GPs for compensation were most often made for the misdiagnosis – or a delayed diagnosis – of cancer of heart attacks
- Medication errors – both prescription errors and administration errors – were also highlighted as common mistakes made in primary care
- The errors most frequently cited when children were the patients were the misdiagnosis of appendicitis and delayed diagnosis of meningitis
- Claims against GPs for compensation due to the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition appear to be on the increase year-on-year.
Dr Emma Wallace – the head researcher for the report – admitted that reviewing claims against GP for compensation was not the ideal substitute for accurately recording “adverse effects” in primary healthcare, but it had identified that more GPs and front-line health practitioners were practising more cautiously.
She said that, rather than attempt an accurate diagnosis themselves, more GPs were referring patients to consultants because of the fear of legal action if a mistake was made. This has the knock-on effect on placing more pressure on the Irish Health Service and potentially allowing an avoidable deterioration of an existing condition to go untreated.
It was also discovered that claims against GP for compensation often place front-line healthcare practitioners under greater levels of stress – reducing their ability to make an accurate diagnosis and placing patients at a higher risk of injury. Dr Wallace hopes that, with better educational strategies and risk management mechanisms, the report will help improve the standard of healthcare provided by front-line health practitioners and reduce the number of claims against GPs for compensation.