GPs work under great pressure but, where they make negligent mistakes that cause injury to patients, it is only right that compensation is paid. In one case, a man with a heart condition who suffered a catastrophic faint after his doctor failed to refer him to hospital won the right to very substantial damages.
After the middle-aged man went to see his GP, complaining of heart palpitations and unusual breathlessness after exercise, the doctor sent him for an electrocardiogram test. When the results came back, they showed some abnormalities, but the GP failed to immediately refer him to hospital for further investigation.
About three months later, the man was walking across a car park when he suddenly lost consciousness and fell to the ground, sustaining a serious spinal cord injury. It subsequently emerged that he was suffering from an undiagnosed condition which interrupted electrical impulses to his heart.
After proceedings were launched on his behalf, the High Court found that, had the GP referred him to hospital as it was conceded that he should have done, he would have been fitted with a pacemaker and would not have fainted. The GP's negligence was thus the direct cause of his collapse. Unless settlement terms are agreed in the light of the Court's ruling, the amount of the man's compensation will be assessed at a further hearing.