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Sharp rise in patient claims against GPs

Claims against hospital doctors fell, says MDDUS

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The number of claims made against GPs has risen sharply by 42% in a year, show new figures published by UK-wide medical defence organisation MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland).

The MDDUS Annual Report for 2012 said there had been a 35% overall increase in claims intimated over the year compared to 2011. This included a 42% rise in GP claims while claims against hospital doctors fell slightly.

During 2012, the organisation’s medical advisory team received a record 13,664 member contacts, which was a 5.2% increase on 2011, and the most common reason for doctors to contact them was patient complaints.

Patient complaint related inquiries represented 21% of all calls and the organisation was also contacted about a growing number of GMC cases, which rose by 41% compared to 2011.

Patient complaint calls included cases where patients were unhappy with a delay in treatment, there were alleged missed diagnosis, criticism of care provided and complaints by a family member of a deceased patient.

Despite the growing trend of patient complaints, only around a quarter led to payments being made.

More than 75% of medical claims settled by MDDUS for its members in 2012 closed with no payment being made, while 96.5% of GMC cases (figure from 2011) concluded with no sanctions imposed against MDDUS members.

MDDUS joint head of medical division Dr Anthea Martin said: “Part of this overall increase can be attributed to our growing membership but, despite this, MDDUS has seen evidence of a rise in the frequency of claims against doctors over the last few years.

“The rise in regulatory cases is consistent with figures reported by the GMC. It reflects a number of factors including a greater proportion of registrants now being reported to the regulator by employers or colleagues.”

Dr Martin said it was always best for doctors to seek advice early rather than risk problems escalating into formal complaints or legal claims further later on.

“Nowadays, doctors appear risk-aware which may be in part due to publicity surrounding high-profile cases over the past couple of years. Doctors are encouraged to contact their medical defence organisation for advice on any issue that is causing them concern or where they are the subject of a complaint or claim.”

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