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GP hit by patient complaints over prostate cancer diagnosis



GPs are struggling to meet patient expectations in prostate cancer diagnosis due to controversies over the diagnosis and treatment of the condition, say medical defence experts.

The Medical Defence Union said 70% of the 178 complaints reported to the organisation in relation to prostate cancer patients over the last ten years concerned an alleged failure to diagnose the condition.

It said other complaints centred on management of patients after diagnosis, including allegations of failure to provide or refer for what the patient considered the most appropriate treatment.

The organisation said the best way for practices to minimise risks of complaints is  to ensure their practice has ‘a system in place to follow up results of investigations, such as PSA tests’, and ‘clearly communicating the implications of an abnormal finding to the patient with referrals made when necessary’.

Writing in the latest issue of MDU journal Good Practice, MDU medico-legal adviser, Dr Sally Old, writes: ‘Patients rightly expect their GP to make a timely and accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer, as well as appropriate advice about managing the condition.’

‘However, the controversy over the best way to diagnose and treat prostate cancer means that GPs can find themselves in a difficult position when deciding whether a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test is appropriate and then deciding how to handle the results.’

‘The best way for GPs to help themselves is by ensuring their practice has a system in place to follow up results of investigations, such as PSA tests, which are carried out and clearly communicating the implications of an abnormal finding to the patient with referrals made when necessary.’

‘Where a decision is made not to carry out a PSA test, the reasons should be explained to the patient, as well as their right to obtain a second opinion.’