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GPs paid £28m for meningitis negligence claims

31 July 2013

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Medical negligence claims involving meningitis cost GPs £28 million over the past four years, it has been revealed. 

Figures released by medical defence body the Medical Defence Union (MDU) showed that £2.5 million was paid out following the failure to refer a four-year-old to a hospital by a GP working out of hours. 

The child was later diagnosed with meningitis B and suffered severe disabilities, including the loss of a leg. 

Between 2008 and 2012, the MDU paid out more than £28m to settle 17 medical negligence claims involving meningitis or meningococcal disease on behalf of its GP members.

The union said it is not unusual for cases to be settled well in excess of £1 million because the cost of providing care for patients can last the rest of their lives. 

Dr Sharmala Moodley, deputy head of claims at the MDU, said: “Meningitis is thankfully a rare disease, meaning most GPs will only see one or two cases in a lifetime of practice, but failure to diagnose meningitis can have devastating consequences for patients, some of whom will suffer irreversible injuries such as brain damage, loss of limbs and organ damage.

“This is reflected in the high costs of compensation payments, especially where cases involve children who may need care for many years to come.”

A full clinical record of the consultation, including the history and examination, along with details of follow-up advice, is essential for good patient care and could help in the defence of a claim, according to the MDU.