Since 1 April 2019, GPs have been covered by the government’s insurance scheme. This means that clinical negligence claims against GPs relating to NHS work will now be handled by NHS Resolution. In this blog, Christopher Boughton discusses why this will hopefully benefit patients.
NHS Resolution (formerly known as NHS Litigation Authority) is the government body responsible for resolving patient claims regarding medical treatment. If a patient decides to proceed with legal action, this will typically involve either negotiating a settlement or defending the claim at trial.
Prior to 1 April 2019, NHS Resolution would handle claims arising from treatment patients had received in NHS hospitals, but not NHS treatment patients had received from their GPs. GPs were instead responsible for arranging their own insurance against medical claims and claims would be handled by their insurers.
In October 2017, the government announced plans for GPs to be covered by the state-backed insurance scheme, citing that the cost of medical negligence cover was affecting GPs’ ability to work.
From 1 April 2019, NHS Resolution will now handle medical negligence claims bought against GPs. GPs are required however to arrange their own insurance for non-NHS work.
Claims against GPs going forward
Prior to 1 April 2019, GPs had to arrange their own insurance against medical claims and this would often result in GPs having different levels of insurance. This meant that some GPs would have ‘gaps’ in their insurance resulting in some patients being unable to claim compensation for life-changing injuries, as the GPs were not properly insured.
Claims against GPS would often involve negligence alleged against more than one doctor. These claims would previously involve discussing the case with each GP’s insurer and the different lawyers they chose to instruct. A ‘too many cooks’ situation would frequently mean patients experienced unnecessary delay in litigation and settlement of their claim. There was also a lack of information being passed on regarding practice standards among GPs and whether claims highlighted issues within the NHS that needed addressing.
In addition to handling claims, one of NHS Resolution’s key functions is to ensure that lessons are learnt from the mistakes uncovered in claims, for the benefit of both patients and medical professionals There will only be one body to discuss claims with, which should make the process overall much simpler for patients.
A common motivation for patients when deciding to bring a medical negligence claim is to ensure that what happened to them does not happen to someone else. With NHS Resolution handling GP claims going forward, it is hoped that lessons can be learnt which will benefit both patients and the doctors who care for them.
Deciding whether to bring a claim against a GP
If you think you have received negligent treatment from a GP, you may be minded to seek compensation by bringing a legal claim. Litigation can be a long and complicated process and it is important you consider what you want to achieve when making this decision:
Would an explanation of what happened satisfy you, without the need for legal action?
If so you could consider making an informal complaint to your GP’s practice. You should receive an explanation at the very least, an apology where appropriate and assurances that any problems have been addressed so they will not happen to other patients in the future.
Would you prefer there to be a more detailed investigation of what happened?
You could make a formal complaint to your GP’s practice or NHS England, which will be dealt with under the NHS complaints procedure. Complaints should be made within 12 months of the treatment or when you became aware there were issues. The NHS will be required to investigate and respond, which makes this a useful tool for finding out more information about what happened.
If you are not satisfied by an explanation and want to bring a claim for compensation, are you within the time limit (limitation)?
Your legal claim must be commenced within three years from when the treatment occurred or when you first realised you had suffered an injury. For children, the three year limit does not start until their 18th birthday. In either case, it is advisable you seek specialist advice as soon as possible so that the time limit does not run out.
Have you considered what bringing the claim will involve?
Legal action is often lengthy and stressful to the individual. You will have to describe what happened many times which can be very upsetting. There could also be costs involved in bringing your claim. While you could be entitled to compensation, it is not a decision to be made lightly.
If having considered the points above you are still interested in pursuing a claim, we would be happy to hear from you.