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Sometimes, it is not anybody's fault

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Contusions to both knees, abrasions to the elbows and a bruised ego.

That was the full extent of my injuries after a recent first attempt at paragliding.

My monthly indemnity insurance now costs more than my mortgage

Due to a combination of a language barrier (my Italian being limited to a two-week self-taught course), a poor explanation (the Italian instructor seemed more interested in discussing the best places to eat in town than the details of take-off) and the fact I was wrapped up like an Inuit at an all-night winter fishing contest, I hadn’t grasped that when he said: ‘take three steps forward on the count of three’ he actually meant take three steps forward then run like you’ve just slipped out early from a CCG meeting.

However, in the spirit of British stiff upper lips, I brushed myself off and we returned to the summit and second time around I got my breath-taking flight from a 2,500 metre Dolmitic peak.

At the bottom, the owner of the paragliding school suggested we look at the video (the whole thing supposedly having been recorded) to see what had gone wrong and what could have gone better. All very reminiscent of GP training, apart from the fact the camera had malfunctioned in the crash and there was no video. Still the instructor and I shook hands and went our separate ways, he with a pocket full of cash and me with some fantastic memories.

Now clearly things could have gone better and I did casually mention to the instructor that although I’m not overly pedantic about precise instructions as a rule, the one exception may be when I’m about to leap off a mountain. I have absolutely no intention of suing him and I’ve no doubt he has learned from the episode.  

At the other end of the health and safety spectrum, this week I received an e-mail inviting me to a hospital leaving do. It stated if anyone is considering bringing homemade cakes they will need to provide a written list of all the ingredients. Now, if you have made a peanut butter-filled sponge cake studded with walnuts you might point it out to those with a nut allergy, but otherwise, really…?

I have ranted on about this before, but like a lot of GPs my monthly indemnity insurance now costs more than my mortgage and is my biggest single monthly expenditure. Whatever the defence organisations might tell us I am not convinced that this is not primarily driven by greedy negligence lawyers and the fact, in the UK at least, there seems to be a belief that nothing bad should ever happen to anyone and if it does it must be someone else’s fault.

Obviously, voluntarily choosing to jump off a mountain is different to medical negligence, but the message that society needs to get is everything in life is risky and on the whole medical treatments are very safe. And they’re certainly safer than may other every day activities - for example driving to the GP surgery.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London

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Readers' comments (4)

  • I was rearranging my medical indemnity the other day. A slip of the tongue by the person on the phone led to a conversation that a vast amount of their work and costs now are about defending complaints to the GMC rather than adverse outcomes to patients (although clearly there is an overlap). So that's why costs have gone up.

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  • Will Medicine survive the law ? It sure frightens the living daylights out of me. Imagine 12 years of training and day one you make a mistake because you are human. End of career. Would you choose such a vocation where you need resilience like soldiers going to war [Prof Nicholson] and that is what it is, except you cannot make the slightest, even perceived mistake.

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  • Wish you a speedy recovery and please go to language classes. Paul

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  • Ignorance is bliss for two groups
    Those close to retirement .. who just don't care
    Those just registered...
    who don't realise how much trouble they can get

    Those in the middle ...
    keep their heads down
    keep things safe

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