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GP negligence claims soar by 20%

By Alisdair Stirling

The number of GP medical negligence claims have shot up by 20% in the past year and are far outstripping negligence claims made in other branches of medicine, medical defence experts have revealed.

Experts from the Medical Defence Union say although medical negligence claims increased across the board last year, the most marked rise was in the area of general practice.

The MDU also said the numbers of high value claims against GPs had increased. The MDU was notified of 13 claims assessed at over £1m in 2010, a dramatic rise since 1995, when the MDU paid compensation exceeding £1m in just one GP case.

The number of claims received is commercially confidential, but the medical defence body said many of the claims arose from incidents reported some years earlier as complaints or adverse incidents. The most common allegations made against GPs were delayed or wrong diagnosis which led to 60% of notified claims, followed by failure to refer patients, which totaled 15% and medication errors at 10%.

Dr Sharmala Moodley, a former GP and deputy head of claims at the MDU, said early figures from the first quarter of 2011 suggested the rise was continuing.

'Prior to 2010, things were stable. But this was a marked rise last year compared to 2009. It's a bit early to say but so far this year it's continuing.'

She said the increase may reflect the economic climate, increased access to lawyers and the rise of no-win-no-fee agreements, rather than GP competence.

'We've seen no deterioration in standards of care or in the professional relationships between our GP members and their patients. It's speculation on our part, but the NHS Litigation Authority has noted a similar position and postulate that the increase is down to societal factors.'

GP negligence claims soar by 20%