Medical Negligence

General Practitioner and Family Doctor Negligence

General Practitioner and Family Doctor Negligence

General Practitioner and Family Doctor Negligence Lawyers

General practitioners and family doctors or physicians treat all common medical conditions. They are responsible for referring their patients for urgent hospital and specialist treatment and investigation.

Failure to diagnose and refer resulting in misdiagnosis and a delayed diagnosis are some of the top reasons for medical negligence claims against general practitioners and family doctors in Australia today, particularly with the development and increase of “multi” general practitioner medical practices contributing to their error rates.

Our team of specialist medical negligence lawyers are experienced in acting for patients and their families in respect of negligent medical treatment received from general practitioners and family doctors all over Australia. We understand the devastating effects of having suffered an injury or a worsened medical condition, or experienced the loss of a loved one, because of negligent medical treatment at the hands of a general practitioner or a family physician.

We’ll be here for you every step of the way guiding you through the process in your medical negligence claim. We have the expert knowledge, expertise and a proven track record needed to obtain outstanding results in all types of general practitioner and family doctor negligence compensation claims.

We’ll act for you in your general practitioner negligence claim on a no win, no fee basis with no upfront costs. See our why choose us page for many more reasons as to why so many Australians choose Longton Compensation Lawyers over anyone else for their medical negligence compensation claims.

When can I claim compensation for general practitioner or family doctor negligence?

The most common ways in which treatment at the hands of a general practitioner, family doctor or a family physician can fall below an acceptable standard of care include:

  • Missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis of a patient’s condition

Medical misdiagnosis is the most common basis for medical negligence claims against general practitioners and family doctors.

In order to prevent an incorrect or missed diagnosis, general practitioners and family physicians must be diligent in following patient’s complaints until all potential diagnoses and conditions are excluded and a final diagnosis is made.

General practitioners and family doctors must be familiar with the error rates of diagnostic tools, such as blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds and mammograms, and not place too much reliance on these investigations, by overlooking obvious clinical signs of a medical condition by not listening to their patients.

– Example

One of the main reasons for a failure or delay in diagnosis of breast cancer is reliance on a falsely reassuring or negative ultrasound or mammogram, when in most circumstances a palpable lump or breast complaint should be investigated with a “triple test” of ultrasound, mammogram and a biopsy in order to follow it through to diagnosis.

See our medical misdiagnosis page for more information on missed diagnosis, misdiagnosis and delay in diagnosis medical negligence compensation claims against general practitioners and family doctors.

  • Having inadequate information about the patient or having no prior relationship with a patient

Compared to other countries, in Australia, patients may consult multiple general practitioners and general practices. This approach has been criticised for facilitating fragmented or unnecessary care and as increasing error rates.  It reduces relational and informational continuity between patients and their general practitioners even if they work out of the same medical practice. This often results in instances of negligent medical treatment and advice by general practitioners and family doctors and sometimes even general practices themselves.

– Example

A patient consults a general practitioner in a multi-general practitioner medical centre who orders a PSA test (prostate-specific antigen). The PSA test comes back as abnormal. At the next appointment the patient consults a different general practitioner to the doctor who ordered the PSA. The new doctor does not tell the patient of the abnormal PSA result, being unaware of the previously ordered test. The abnormal PSA result is caused by the patient’s prostate cancer which remains undiagnosed and progresses.

See our failure to warn page and delay in diagnosis page for more information on medical negligence compensation claims against general practitioners and family doctors involving failure to warn or inform their patients of the significance of their test results, resulting in delay in diagnosis.

  • Inadequate fracture or trauma care

Inadequate fracture or trauma care overlaps with medical misdiagnosis. When this occurs, the injury ends up being worse than initially diagnosed because the symptoms of the injury are not recognised by the general practitioner or family doctor. 

Sometimes, even very basic problems and conditions are missed because general practitioners and family physicians place excessive reliance on certain tests and investigations and follow a rigid protocol which goes against an accurate diagnosis considering the patient’s symptoms.

Often, general practitioners become so fixated on the process that they miss the substance of what they are looking at. The most common conditions that are missed and which give rise to medical negligence compensation claims against general practitioners are missed scaphoid fractures, vertebral fractures, breast cancer, aneurisms and compromised nerves as a result of spinal disc injuries/conditions.

– Example 1

A patient who suffers a fall onto an outstretched hand and develops a symptomatic anatomical snuffbox is advised by the general practitioner that based on the x-ray results he did not suffer a fracture of the scaphoid bone. It is well accepted by the medical profession that an x-ray is not sensitive enough as an initial investigation to exclude a scaphoid fracture. This results in the scaphoid fracture being missed, because a CT scan or MRI scan is not performed. The patient’s hand is not placed in a cast despite the symptom of anatomical snuffbox tenderness. The patient does not receive appropriate and timely treatment for the scaphoid fracture. The fracture leads to a non-union and avascular necrosis resulting in significant functional problems in the patient’s hand.

 –  Example 2

A patient presents to a general practitioner with left sided weakness following a fall. The general practitioner diagnoses the patient with multiple sclerosis (MS) or peripheral neuropathy. The general practitioner does not refer the patient for a CT scan or MRI scan of the spine, and instead refers the patient for an MRI of the brain. The patient’s symptoms are caused by a slipped disc which remains undiagnosed and untreated. As a result, the patient’s spinal condition progresses and renders the patient to become an incomplete quadriplegic.

  • Failure to refer or follow-up

For most patients suffering from illness, the first point of contact when seeking medical care will be their general practitioner or family doctor.

A general practitioner might be deemed negligent if he or she fails to recognise that a patient needs to be referred to a specialist, usually via a hospital, or for further tests and treatment.

General practitioners and family physicians, also, have a duty to promptly follow up referrals for their patients to ensure timely diagnosis. They must, also, discuss with their patients how to treat their medical conditions whilst awaiting any specialist appointment. If this is not done, it can often lead to worsening of conditions and severe consequences for the patient, particularly for cancer patients and those suffering from vascular and spinal conditions.

 – Example 1

Administrative errors in relation to referrals can occur and include instances of patients getting lost in the system or a referral simply not being processed correctly by the general practitioner.

– Example 2

Administrative errors in relation to referrals can occur and include instances of patients getting lost in the system or a referral simply not being processed correctly by the general practitioner.

– Example 3

Following up after hospital or specialist treatment, when a patient is discharged back into the care of their general practitioner or family doctor, is the doctor’s responsibility. It is, also, the doctor’s responsibility to monitor the patient’s recovery and refer them back to hospital for any follow up tests and treatment that might be required.

See our failure to warn page and delay in diagnosis page for more information on medical negligence compensation claims against general practitioners and family doctors involving failure to refer or follow up.

  • Medication and prescription errors

Medication and prescription errors are mistakes which occur in prescribing, dispensing and giving medications. Although most medication and prescription errors can be prevented, they injure hundreds of thousands of people every year at the hands of general practitioners and family physicians all over Australia.

 – Example

A patient is prescribed with high doses of prednisolone or prednisone for a chest infection over a long period of time in the circumstances where the lowest effective dose over the shortest possible period ought to be utilised. As a result of long term and high dose prednisolone or prednisone use the patient develops avascular necrosis in both if his hips.

See our medication and prescription errors page for more information on medical negligence compensation claims involving medication and prescription errors against general practitioners and family doctors.

Contact us today, and start with a free consultation by clicking “Make a Booking” to receive our preliminary expert advice.  

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Jonathan Coyle
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Tony Chow
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