GP’s are human and can make mistakes and may be accused of medical malpractice – but can the clinic be held liable for the GP’s error?  An essential part of day-to-day practice management is risk management. When your day-to-day business involves the care and livelihood of patients, who are reporting with illness and injury, risk management takes an even greater priority in business operations.

With general practices, the best approach to risk management is always a proactive rather than a reactive one. Ensuring set patient protocols and procedures, efficient, up-to-date record keeping and rigorous recruitment processes are just some of the key risk management procedures must take to ensure they are proactively equipped to reduce the risk of patient negligence and complaints.

However, as is the case with any human process, there is always a risk of human error, no matter how stringent your processes and procedures. Unfortunately, in medical practice, the risk of human error can have extremely serious consequences, damaging the health or potentially leading to loss of life.

If a GP makes a mistake with a patient, a claim for medical malpractice may be made.


What are common cases of medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice can occur in various forms, with consequences of varying significance. A doctor may misdiagnose or fail to diagnose an illness or injury, wrongly prescribe medication, fail to diagnose a patient in line with previous or family history, disclose patient records or simply make an administrative error that means a surgical request or appointment is not made.

As you can see, doctors are at risk of many potential sources of medical malpractice claims. That’s why it is important that such medical professionals, no matter how long they have worked in their profession, seek to take out their own liability insurance policies.

But it’s not just doctors themselves who need to seek such protection – their employing practices must seek out insurance cover too.


Why medical clinics need medical malpractice insurance

Where a doctor employed by a medical clinic is accused of medical malpractice, both doctor and clinic can be sued.

Claims can be taken against the clinic as they have employed the accused doctor but an accuser may also directly blame the clinic for directly contributing to the cause of claim, through absence of policies, background check etc. and so become a joint defendant in a case.

Even if not a co-accused defendant in a case, if a GP makes a mistake while working at a clinic, that clinic is likely to suffer significant reputational damage. Rebate may be needed to cover the financial impact caused by this reputational damage, and even perhaps to cover legal costs in suits against the accused should a clinic seek to claim damage costs against the doctor in question.


Encouraging disclosure of errors

While errors in medical practice can have significant consequences, medical practices should always maintain policies which encourage their disclosure – both from doctors and patients. The earlier an error can be identified, the earlier it can be remedied – and this can have life-saving results.

Naturally, there is a fear factor involved when it comes to medical errors, but ensuring honest, open communication can help to save lives and ultimately save the careers and reputations of doctors and medical practices too.

Always give your doctors the time and right to respond to any negligence claims made by patients, whether informally or formally. Just as human error can occur in medical practice, so too can it occur in claims made by patients so it is important to obtain the facts from all sides and commit to a thorough investigation.


Medical malpractice – know the facts, know how to act.

When it comes to medical malpractice, medical clinics need to ensure they know the legislative facts and know how and when to act. Handling and responding to medical malpractice claims should be a core element addressed in company policies and the employee handbook. Only through effective communication can the risk of mitigation be handled correctly.


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