We all lead busy lives and there are many pressures and stresses put upon us in our day-to-day working lives. We all appreciate that those in the GP surgery or at the hospital, doctors and other healthcare professionals are at least as rushed and time poor as we are. There is much talk in the media about underfunding in the NHS and ‘winter pressures’ on our hospitals and emergency services.
Our question today is – are we as patients affected by time poor and rushed healthcare professionals?
Call us on Freephone 0800 655 6550. Our dedicated team of expert solicitors will be able to discuss these issues in a sensitive manner with you. Here are some details of our team here.
What should care look like?
When we seek medical care we are at our most vulnerable. We are unlikely to be confident or assertive. The legal definition of appropriate care changed with the recent case of Montgomery V NHS Lanarkshire. This case highlights the move away from the traditional, “doctor knows best” attitude to a more open conversation. With so many potential treatment options and care our expectations about how we should be treated are now to be borne in mind.
Consequently care choices and treatment plans should be an open conversation between the patient and the health practitioner. This means that there should be time to discuss the health issue. Taking into account how the patient wishes to resolve the problem, what the healthcare worker recommends and all the options and pros and cons of each option should be gone through. Ideally, the patient should be able to go away, think about things, read any information leaflets and make an informed decision.
What actually happens in GP surgeries?
For most of us the reality is that what we would like to be done is not feasible. We have all been sat in the GP surgery full of other sick people, waiting for our appointment. The GP is inevitably running late, rather flustered, hasn’t had chance to look at our notes or why we are there. There is often a lack of continuity of treatment with no time to discuss options and think about things.
We appreciate that this is a sweeping generalisation but we talk to clients all day. They tell us of their appointments.All have sympathy for the hard worked and time poor G.P. These problems are highlighted in a system that GP appointments tend to be no longer than seven minutes. This simply does not allow for an in depth discussion of serious health problems – particularly with a G.P you may have not met before. Here is a guide to make the most of your seven minutes here
Everyday we speak to people who tell us that there was no continuity in their GP care. Seeing the same G.P twice is becoming rarer. Seeing multiple GP’s in the practice has become the norm.. Patients tell us they feel they were being dismissed or not being listened to. Patients have been left having treatment which they don’t understand or why it has been recommended to them. Many are uninformed about what it is or what the risks or other options were.
We are not here to bash G.P’s of their hardworking staff. GP’s face a high volume of patients every day with many health issues. They do not know from one appointment to the next what they will encounter. This of course makes listening to their patients all the more important.
G.P – Example problems
There are many potential examples we have come across in our work here at Corries Solicitors. The most noteworthy centre on three main aspects:
- Failing to recognise or accurately diagnose a condition, this is very common with skin conditions such as dermatitis. We are aware of numerous cases where patients have been told they have scabies and have had to use special ointment themselves and then tell their family or in one case non-related housemates that they too may be infected. In these cases the patients had a non-contagious severe form of eczema. This is reinforced by the statistic that one in six patients is misdiagnosed by their GP (article here);
- Recommending treatment which is wrong in all the circumstances, this is a less common error in our experience but does happen from time to time and the consequences are severe. This is reinforced by the fact that one in twenty prescriptions contain an error of which four per cent of the errors were found to be serious (read more here).
- Failing to refer a patient for an expert opinion in a timely manner. GPs by their nature are general practitioners who often know something about a lot of areas of healthcare but are not expert in any one area. GP’s, therefore, have to refer patients to experts and in a timely manner. We are aware of one case whereby the individual had a cough for over eighteen months and despite numerous GP attendances and complaints was not referred for an expert opinion or chest x-ray, the potential ramifications are unthinkable.
It is noteworthy that in 2015 clinical negligence claims against GPs rose by over sixteen per cent (article here). We do not believe that GP’s are deliberately negligent or lack training. Here at Corries Solicitors we hold that many errors would be prevented if GP’s simply had more time to listen to their patients, to read the medical notes and properly discuss options with the patients.
What really happens in hospitals?
For many of us hospital referral helps seek more in depth and specialist medical assistance and advice. This can be in the form of investigations such as x-rays or in the form of surgery.
For others undergoing surgery, whether it be a day case, keyhole surgery or overnight hospital stay needs careful thought. This might involve a routine procedure for your doctor but for you as the patient it is usually a major life event. For all the more reason doctors should discuss matters in depth and allow patients time to weigh up the risks and potential benefits of surgery. This is where we find hospitals fall down the most, the step before the surgery, the process of obtaining consent from the patient.
Consent from a patient is vitally important. It demonstrates that the patient understands all of the potential risks and complications. It further shows that the patient agrees with the doctor that the particular surgery is the best thing for them in their treatment.
Common Care and Consent Pitfalls
So………..where does consent go wrong?
Here at Corries Solicitors, we have identified the main pitfalls in the consent process:
- Proformas, patients are often given a proforma checklist perhaps with a leaflet attached to it. This proforma lists the risks and benefits of a surgery. Sadly it is often hard for a lay person to interpret what it really means. In many ways this feels like doctors giving lip service to the requirement to obtain patient consent;
- Timing, often we find that consent is only finally obtained on the day of the surgery or procedure. Patients are given a form to read and sign immediately prior to the surgery. This is at a time when patients are their most vulnerable and stressed It is unlikely that a person is thinking clearly enough to give informed consent. Prior to surgery patients may have had to book time off work, arrange childcare, not eaten, spent a sleepless night anticipating the procedure. None of this helps a well thinking mind or the provision of informed consent; and
- Dialogue, simply put no discussion about the risks of the procedure. Most of all no time for a patient to go away and think. In addition to this there is often no time to raise queries with the doctor in a relaxed environment.
We note that these issues are made harder due to time pressures on hospital resources. The rise in clinical negligence claims against NHS hospitals is well documented in the media (see for example here). We firmly believe that if doctors and other health professionals were better resourced with time, then a better service would be provided to patients. The obvious consequence would be fewer claims against the NHS. And surely that is the bets outcome isn’t it? We firmly hope that every mistake is a lesson learned (read our related article here).
What can we do?
It is important that patients never feel rushed or pressured in to a specific treatment. We urge each an every person to take their time in making a decision.Always make sure you have all the information needed to make an informed decision and discuss matters with GP’s and hospital professionals as much as you can. Thinking and writing out what you want to now or are worried about before you go is a good idea and can save time.
Have you have been affected by these issues. Do you believe that you have been injured due to your medical professional rushing your treatment or not properly listening to you. Were you not advised of all the risks? Then telephone our team of clinical negligence solicitors TODAY. Call us on Freephone 0800 655 6550. Our dedicated team of expert solicitors will be able to discuss these issues in a sensitive manner with you. Here is some details of our team here.
We assure you that we have time to care – call us.