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RCSI: Negligence Claims against GPs in Ireland Primarily for Missed Diagnoses

A report conducted by the Health Research Board on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has found that most negligence claims against GPs are primarily for missed diagnoses.

The research of negligence claims against GPs was conducted at the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin in order to determine which areas of primary care should be concentrated on when compiling future educational strategies and developing risk management systems for all healthcare professionals.

The final report revealed that the most common reasons for negligence claims against GPs were missed diagnoses and medication errors, with the delayed diagnosis of cancer being the most frequent individual condition which gave plaintiffs grounds to claim compensation.

Admitting that negligence claims against GPs are “not a perfect substitute for adverse events” lead researcher Dr Emma Wallace – who is herself a GP – provided a list of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions. For adults these included breast cancer, colon cancer, cancers of the skin, female genital tract and lungs; while children with appendicitis and meningitis were most likely to be misdiagnosed.

Dr Wallace hopes that the findings in the report will improve the primary care received by patients. She acknowledges in her report that the number of negligence claims against GPs is increasing and, as doctors in fear of litigation practice more defensively, many more patients are being referred to consultants – delaying an accurate diagnosis in many cases and enabling a condition to deteriorate unnecessarily.

She also hopes that there will be fewer negligence claims against GPs, as it has been shown that doctors facing litigation experience increased levels of stress, which in turn reduces the level of service they are able to provide.