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Practices should consider ‘appropriateness’ of minor surgery

17 October 2012

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GPs need to be “prepared to apologise” should post-operative complications arise from minor surgery to avoid compensation claims.

Out of the 112 complaints and claims notified by GP members of the Medical Defence Union (MDU) over a four-year period, more than a third (37%) were for problems associated with minor surgery.

More than £400,000 has been paid out in compensation over the same period to settle 18 claims of this kind. Payments ranged from £500 for a diathermy burn to over £220,000 to a man who was left in pain following a vasectomy.

Medico-legal adviser Dr Ellen O’Dell said better monitoring could have enabled the GP to spot the post-operative complications earlier in some cases

“Minor surgery performed in general practice settings will, in most cases, offer patients a quicker and more convenient alternative to seeing a specialist, but occasionally problems can arise which may lead to a complaint or claim,” said Dr O’Dell in Good Practice.
“Post-operative complications are a risk in any invasive procedure so careful monitoring is important. In six cases in our study, patients complained that they hadn’t been properly warned about possible complications or scarring.

‘It is important that patients are provided with sufficient warnings as part of the consent discussion and that this is documented in the patient’s notes.”

The MDU has advised GPs to consider the “appropriateness” of the size of the practice for the treatment, carry out regular audits of minor surgery and be prepared to apologise to reduce the risk of an “adverse incident” arising from minor surgery.