Negligence & COVID

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03 November, 2020

John Bennett

As we enter into a countrywide lockdown for the 2nd time, the NHS is likely to face significant strain once again. In March and April, as the number of COVID19 cases and deaths were increasing, the number of patients seen face to face in primary care fell sharply.

GP's were facing a difficult balance of when to see patients face to face, remotely by video or by phone. Even though the risk of seeing patients face to face was high, a small number of patients still needed to be seen.

The GMC issued guidance in September. The guidance provides help on how to assess the overall risk in a clinical setting during the Covid19 pandemic. It addresses fitness to practice and focuses on whether the doctor was unable to see a patient in the usual way, for example, undertaking remote consultations, using video rather than face to face.

The NHS have been put under considerable strain by the pandemic and have rightly received countrywide support and praise. They do need to be careful to avoid falling into the trap "because of COVID" becoming an excuse not to follow things up. That puts more lives at risk with far worse consequences than COVID may inflict on an individual.

Whilst not definitive, the guidance does provide some help on what is expected of the reasonable GP. As with many scenarios, much will depend on the nature of the complaint and the symptoms. The Pandemic hasn't significantly changed that approach. It could be argued there should be a staged approach. If it was reasonable to take a history by telephone, that would not be considered substandard. If there was need to see the patient could it be done by video? Would photographs of, say a skin condition be enough? Many people have the ability to take pictures on their phone and email or text them. A quick review of a photograph might help determine whether a patient needed to be seen.

Failure to take these steps could be considered substandard and lead allegations of negligence. If that then results in things getting worse, there could be claim for losses arising from the delay. Whilst there is an understandable reluctance to pursue claims against the NHS in the current climate, the clinicians need to remain vigilante to other conditions other than COVID19.

If you think you may have been a victim of substandard treatment contact us for a no obligation advice. We take claims on a no win no fee basis.

For more information contact John Bennett in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 872111. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Clinical Negligence department here

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