The Health and Social Care Bill being debated in Parliament could put patients at risk of medical mistakes if GPs are forced to take on more administrative and management tasks, specialist medical negligence lawyer Melanie Lidstone-Land of SWAIN & CO has today warned.
“The proposals will give GP surgeries responsibility for buying in services like mental health care or services for elderly people in their local areas,” Melanie Lidstone-Land said.
“But with GPs having to focus more on administration and management, there are real concerns that patient care will suffer.”
Whitehall civil servants have drawn up a list of “likely and unlikely” risks that may result from the Bill, but the Government have refused to release the information, despite being ordered to do so by the Information Commissioner under Freedom of Information legislation.
The Opposition successfully challenged this refusal through an FOI tribunal in London last week, but the Government may still seek to deny the public access to information about the risks of the Bill, which could include a danger of GPs making more mistakes and patient care suffering.
Figures from the NHS Litigation Authority show an increase of more than 30% in the number of clinical negligence cases against GPs from 2010 to 2011.
These claims relate to cases where GPs have acted negligently, for example failing to make an appropriate referral to a specialist, misdiagnosing a patient after failing to take a full medical history, or prescribing the wrong medication.
“Where GPs’ time is divided between patient care and practice management, GPs may find themselves spending even less time with each patient, leading to an increase in mistakes, errors and negligent care,” Melanie Lidstone-Land explained.
As well as causing harm and distress to victims, negligent care from GPs could seriously damage the trust between doctor and patient, and between the NHS and the public.
“GPs are the public’s way of accessing healthcare and medical services and treatment,” said Melanie, specialist Clinical Negligence solicitor at the Hampshire-based firm, SWAIN & CO.
“Patients need to know that they can trust their doctor to spend time with them, listen to their concerns, and advise them properly on what treatment they need.”
“If this new Bill requires doctors to spend their time on administration, not care, patients may be the ones who suffer most.”
More clinical negligence cases could also place significant additional pressure on the NHS, with total compensation paid out continuing to rise. In 2010/11, £729.1million in compensation was paid out to victims, an increase of 12%, with legal costs of £235million also met by the NHS Litigation Authority.
At a time of budget cuts and efficiency savings, the NHS Bill could harm patients, damage public trust in the NHS, and cost the NHS more in compensation and legal fees. If the Government truly want to save money, this Bill must be urgently reconsidered.
If you have received negligent treatment from a GP, or at hospital, please contact SWAIN & CO’s expert clinical negligence team on 0800 056 6880.