Increase in Claims against Primary Care Nurses for Medical Negligence

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has reported a steep rise in claims against primary care nurses for medical negligence over the past decade.

The MDU is one of the largest organisations providing medical practitioners in the UK with insurance against medical negligence claims. In 2005, the organisation recorded just two claims against primary care nurses for medical negligence. In 2015, that number had risen to twenty-five.

Much of the increase is attributed to the changing role of primary care nurses in the past decade. An analysis of the claims against primary care nurses for medical negligence shows that nurses are seeing patients with more acute conditions – patients who historically would have been seen by a GP.

The report by the MDU mirrors one produced in 2012 by the Medical Protection Society that attributed the increase in claims against primary care nurses for medical negligence to an expansion of the nursing role and a greater awareness of patients´ rights.

The figures produced by the Medical Protection Society showed the majority of claims against primary care nurses for medical negligence related to missed diagnoses, while the second most common cause was a failure to properly manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, coronary heart disease and hypertension. Three contributing factors were identified by both organisations:

  • The failure to refer (or a delaying in referring) a patient to a GP or specialist.
  • An inadequate assessment of a patient´s condition.
  • Inadequate monitoring of how a disease is progressing.

The MDU´s medico-legal advisor – Dr Beverley Ward – said: “Many practices have devolved more responsibility to nurse practitioners in their team to cope with the increasing demand. However, in taking on roles such as assessing and diagnosing patients, prescribing medicines, and running minor injury clinics, nurse practitioners are also at an increased risk of patients holding them individually accountable if something goes wrong.”