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Case Study

Paul McNeil settles a claim against GP for £1.2 million for diagnosis failure

Paul McNeil, head of our medical negligence department, pursued a claim for a 49 year old solicitor whose GP failed to diagnose a serious infection which went on to cause septicaemia, toxic shock syndrome and required admission to the Intensive Care Unit. The claim was settled against the GP for £1.2 million. 

In May 2006 our client's then partner contacted his GP’s receptionist and explained that her partner was very unwell with chest pain, severe vomiting and breathlessness.  Shortly afterwards the GP attended and diagnosed acute gastritis and also indicated that the patient may have peptic ulcer disease.  He prescribed painkillers, antacids and indicated that the patient should call the NHS out of hours service if his condition worsened (this was disputed).

The GP telephoned our client's then partner at 6pm that evening. He prescribed an anti-sickness drug and said that he would see the patient the next day. 

The patient remained at home on his own overnight and deteriorated significantly.  His then partner telephoned the surgery at 8.15am and the GP immediately arranged admission to the Southampton General Hospital surgical ward. 

We argued on his behalf that he should have been referred to hospital the day before and should have received a broad spectrum antibiotic which would have resulted in control of the septicaemia which had caused the toxic shock syndrome and the severe illness.

By the time he reached hospital our client was in a parlous state and he required admission to the Intensive Care Unit.  He suffered multi organ failure and remained in intensive care for nearly three weeks.  He was very ill and was unable to practice as a solicitor for more than one year. 

We were instructed to pursue a medical negligence claim against the GP on the grounds that our client should have been referred to hospital by the GP urgently with a differential diagnosis of pneumonia or septicaemia.  The potential diagnosis of peptic ulcer disease was incompatible with his symptoms and he should not have been sent to a surgical ward the next day. 

Although liability was never admitted the GP’s advisers agreed to pay the sum of £1.2 million in compensation, the bulk of which was for loss of earnings.  Our client was off work for one year and was no longer able to continue to work at his previous rate. 

The case was pursued on a no win no fee basis.