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Improve communication or face disputes, Ombudsman warns

Improving communication with patients and other NHS services and noting the details of what has been said will help GPs avoid disputes, according to the Ombudsman.

Poor communication and documentation were highlighted by the Ombudsman in a report on recent investigations.

GPs were cited in four cases selected from the caseload between April and October 2003 although only one complaint was upheld to a limited extent.

In the report, Ann Abraham, health service commissioner for England, said poor communication and documentation were 'the two themes which run across almost all the cases I see'.

She concluded: 'If all health service professionals made sure that not only did they communicate clearly with patients, carers and other professionals but also made a note of what had been said, the scope for misunderstanding and possible later dispute would be reduced enormously.'

In the case where the complaint was upheld to a limited extent, the ombudsman highlighted that GP principals remain responsible for patients even when they are treated by salaried doctors under their employment.

The case concerned a patient who died from stomach cancer following several consultations for severe back pain and symptoms of dyspepsia with a salaried doctor.

Ann Abraham ruled the principal should have retained an overview of the patient.

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