The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has received a report indicating that most claims for GP malpractice are the result of missed or delayed diagnoses.

The report, compiled by the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin, revealed that such claims for compensation frequently featured cases such as medication errors or missed diagnoses. The delay in diagnoses of colon cancer and breast cancer were altogether the cause of more claims of malpractice against GPs than any other form of such medical negligence.

The primary aim of the report was to identify which areas of primary medical care should be the focus of future educational strategies for the medical profession, and when developing risk management systems for such professionals.

Along with breast and colon cancer, cancers of the skin, female genital tract and lungs were all frequently misdiagnosed or identified late. The report indicated that appendicitis and meningitis in were the illnesses most likely to be misdiagnosed in children.

Dr Emma Wallace – the lead researcher of the new report-acknowledged that one of the reasons for the surge of late or missed diagnoses is due to the increase in the number of patients being referred to consultants, often unnecessarily. The number of malpractice claims against GPs in Ireland continues to increase, causing doctors to practice more defensively, this causing the increase in the number of referrals.

According to Dr Wallace, doctors facing such claims offer a reduced level of service and care due to the stress that is associated with such a malpractice allegation. Therefore, more patients are at placed at risk of a medication error or missed diagnosis as a result.

She commented that such a review is “timely considering the increased interest in focusing on primary care as a way of improving patient care and safety”, hoping that a review of this nature would provide an insight into the best way forward in reducing the number of GP malpractice claims in Ireland.

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