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Calls to doctors’ helpline surge amid fears over legal claims

15 August 2007

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Calls to the Medical Defence Union (MDU) helpline surged 13% last year as more doctors sought advice over legal issues.

The MDU answered 25,400 calls during 2006, compared with 22,400 in 2005, and it believes concerns over the current medicolegal climate are to blame.

The organisation, which represents more than half of UK doctors, fears that controversial proposals to bring in the civil standard of proof in GMC fitness to practise cases may mean members need more support in future.

Figures also show the MDU settled a number of medical negligence claims in excess of £1m.

The largest of £3.3m was to compensate a patient whose stroke was caused by negligence, and who now needs constant care for the rest of his life.  

The claims arose from general practice and independent hospital practice, and one case against a GP arose from an incident more than 20 years ago.

Dr Michael Saunders, MDU chief executive, said: “Multiple jeopardy is the modern curse of the medical profession.

“One of the main concerns medicolegally over recent years is the increasing number of investigations and inquiries that doctors can face into a single incident.

“We support members at these difficult and stressful times, and it is not uncommon for us to assist a doctor with an employer’s disciplinary investigation, coroner’s inquiry, police investigation, GMC complaint and medical negligence claim, all arising from the same facts.”

Medical Defence Union

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