In 2009-10, the NHS paid out £56 million in compensation to patients who had been incorrectly misdiagnosed. In 2010-2011 this rocketed to £98 million.
In 2011, 1,204 successful cases were brought against NHS trusts for misdiagnosis – an increase of 80 per cent over a five-year period from 2006-7. On the basis of these figures, this is a trend that will keep getting worse. It will cost the NHS and the tax payer millions of pounds and, more importantly, more people their lives.
When you fall sick a diagnosis is the first stage in getting you fit and healthy; this will underpin what treatment is required. If that person is misdiagnosed, it can have severe implications on the patient’s health.
Human error is a major cause of misdiagnosis; this can come from an accidental error from both the Doctor and/or the patient. However more often than not it comes in the form of incompetence, negligence, or a lack of experience from the GP and his supporting staff. Something as simple as test results being filed in the wrong place could have huge ramifications for the patient.
With GP malpractice on the rise, there are many reasons why there could be a misdiagnosis. These include:
- The failure to order appropriate tests
- The failure to provide an adequate follow-up
- Failure to refer to a specialist in that field
- Providing a late follow-up to the test results, or
- Misinterpreting the symptoms.
Misdiagnosis may also not be the fault of the GP. There are instances where misdiagnosis has occurred which are beyond their control and where the blame lies firmly with their colleagues. These include:
- Inadequate testing conditions
- Faulty equipment used for test
- Incorrect results fed back to patient by administrative staff
- Mishandling or loss of results
In some cases, a misdiagnosis can occur when a patient gives wrong or unclear information to their GP but these instances are few and far between. Too often the blame falls at the feet of those who we trust with our care, and with more cuts planned to the NHS and increasing pressure on staff to do more for less, this situation is only going to get worse.
How much more needless suffering must patients go through before this issue is taken seriously and is eradicated once and for all?
Have you or someone you know been affected by a misdiagnosis? Telephone 0800 234 3234 or 0151 321 1000 to discuss if you may be entitled to compensation for professional negligence.