LEGAL EAGLE: Claiming medical negligence

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Late last year I visited my GP because I had a constant cough and felt very out of breath. I underwent a very brief examination. He told me I had a chest infection and prescribed me some antibiotics. My cough did not clear up and I went back to the GP twice again in February and April this year. I was simply prescribed more antibiotics. By July my cough was becoming worse and I saw a different GP. She referred me straight away for a chest x-ray at hospital and I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I had some time off work due to my breathlessness and to have therapy which the hospital say needs to be more than if this had been picked up earlier. It also has made it very difficult for me to take care of my children. I am upset by the delay which had made me anxious. Can I take action against the GP for not taking more steps to investigate?

In circumstances such as these, it would be worthwhile seeking legal advice about the possibility of making a claim against the GP for medical negligence.

In making a claim, you would be seeking compensation for the pain and suffering you have experienced which may include any psychological impact the delay in diagnosis has caused you.

You would also be seeking to claim compensation to cover the cost of care that family and friends have provided and lost earnings from time off work.

A specialist clinical negligence solicitor with Law Society or AVMA Panel membership can advise you as to whether you have grounds to make a claim, and discuss the different options available to you for funding the case.

They would also explain the elements of the process to you which would begin with a review of your medical records.

Your records may raise questions about your GP’s treatment of you, which can only be answered by a medical professional.

Independent medical experts would then be instructed to provide their opinion on the delay, your diagnosis and your current health.

If the experts confirm that you should have been referred for investigation and onto a specialist earlier and as a result, you would have been diagnosed and treated earlier, perhaps even required less treatment, then there would be sufficient grounds to pursue a claim in clinical negligence against the GP.

It is important to begin this process as early as possible due to time limits involved in claims of this nature.

l Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors that can advise on issues such as this. To speak to a specialist Solicitor please phone Ben Hoare Bell on 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for more information.