A report conducted on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has revealed that most GP negligence claim are for misdiagnoses.
The research into negligence claims against GPs was conducted at the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin. Its purpose was to determine which areas of primary care should be concentrated on when compiling future educational strategies and developing risk management systems for healthcare professionals.
The final report revealed that the most GP negligence claims are for misdiagnoses of injuries and illnesses, with the misdiagnosis of cancer being the most frequent individual condition which gave plaintiffs grounds to claim compensation.
Admitting that GP negligence claims for misdiagnoses are “not a perfect substitute for adverse events” lead researcher Dr Emma Wallace – who is herself a GP – released a list of the most frequently misdiagnosed conditions. For adults these included the misdiagnosis of breast cancer, colon cancer and cancers of the skin; while children with appendicitis and meningitis were most likely to be misdiagnosed.
Dr Wallace hopes that the findings of the research will improve the primary care received by patients. She acknowledges that the number of GP negligence claims for misdiagnoses is increasing and, as GPs in fear of litigation practice more defensively, many more patients are being referred to consultants – potentially delaying an accurate diagnosis and enabling an injury or illness condition to deteriorate unnecessarily.
One important point mentioned by Dr Wallace is better educational strategies and risk management systems would result in fewer GP negligence claims for misdiagnoses, which in turn would result in a better level of healthcare by GPs. Dr Wallace found that when GPs are facing litigation, their level of stress increases, which reduces the level of service they are able to provide.