GPs are being sued by patients who have to wait long for hospital treatment, said the co-chair of the GPC UK.
There is ‘clear evidence’ of this sort of case against referring GPs in Northern Ireland, said Dr Alan Stout, in his role as the country’s GPC chairman.
Dr. Stout cited examples of patients who have experienced delays in secondary care and blamed GPs for not pushing ‘hard enough’.
GPs in Northern Ireland are not backed by a state-backed reimbursement scheme as they are in England and Wales, meaning they have to pay ‘astronomical’ fees of up to around £10,000 a year for a full-time GP, said Dr. naughty .
At the recent LMC conference in the UK, Dr Michael McKenna of the Eastern LMC in Northern Ireland said during a debate on the use of private healthcare that the waiting list for some specialties could be up to nine years.
The latest figures from the NI Department of Health showed that as of March this year, nearly 50% of patients waiting for their first consultant-led outpatient appointment had waited more than a year.
Dr. Alan Stout told Pulse that the lack of state-backed reimbursement means there is a ‘very clear discrepancy between GPs in Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK’.
He said: ‘The big problem that comes from that, with a health service that’s in such trouble, is that we see the waiting lists and the recycling of patients back to the GP on the waiting lists, and obviously the problems in the ER and everywhere. trying to discharge patients earlier and earlier.
‘So what we’re seeing is that risk is going up quite a bit for GPs and managing risk is going up quite a bit. But we are still asked to pay for it, and that is very generous.’
Asked about specific cases where GPs have been sued over problems in secondary care, Dr Stout added: ‘That’s exactly what we’ve had in my practice, about delays in diagnosis and ultimately in treatment.
‘There are certainly cases where they come to the GP and say ‘this was missed or there was too much delay and it’s your fault – you didn’t push hard enough or you didn’t prioritize hard enough’ and so on. There are very clear indications that cases like this do occur.’
In 2019, the system was changed in England and Wales so that state-backed schemes automatically cover all GPs if they provide NHS services. In Scotland, compensation costs are lower, but there is no state-backed scheme.
The Northern Ireland Department of Health has not yet responded to calls from the BMA for a similar scheme to be introduced in England and Wales.
This means GPs with overstretched health care ‘carry enormous risks’, as well as the cost of covering their own compensation, says Dr Stout.
On the success of these kinds of claims, Dr Stout said, ‘It’s not even that, it’s the time and the stress around it. It takes an awful lot of time on what is already a flat subject.
‘Every time you receive a complaint against your practice, it has a very big effect on people.
“It changes people’s behavior moving forward in terms of the levels of risk they’re willing to accept and take.”
The BMA told Pulse it was unaware of any GPs in England being prosecuted for delays in second-line diagnosis or treatment.