There are few of us who go through life without illness at some point. For some, these illnesses can prove serious. It’s natural when such illness comes, and we are faced with unusual or unpleasant physical symptoms, that we turn to our local GP or hospital for answers. As a general rule, we put a lot of trust into our doctors, and for the most part we are right to do so. The NHS provides excellent care in many areas, and the majority of our doctors and GPs are highly trained, extremely diligent and very good at their jobs.
However, doctors are people, and it’s a simple fact that people make mistakes.
Tragically, there are a variety of mistakes that doctors do make. This can range from minor mistakes, which maybe don’t have serious consequences, through to negligence, misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose, also known as a missed diagnosis, which can have much more serious consequences.
Although misdiagnosis and a missed diagnosis sound very similar, there is a considerable difference between them. However, both can qualify as medical negligence, as both occur when medical mistakes are made
What is a Misdiagnosis
Visiting a GP we shouldn’t always expect to get an immediate diagnosis. Medical conditions are complex, symptoms don’t always present themselves immediately, and can be confusing. The doctors will ask you questions, run any necessary tests before providing the options for treatment. Quite often, and particularly with more complex conditions, a long series of tests need to be undertaken before the right treatment options can be found.
Some medical conditions present very similar symptoms or are difficult to definitively test for. Doctors might ask more questions and consult your medical history to try to ascertain how likely it is that you’re experiencing one condition as opposed to another.
Doctors often use their best judgment or experience to diagnose what your illness or condition is. But the complicated nature of diseases and testing and diagnosis process is not perfect, and on occasion, a misdiagnosis can occur.
This means that the doctor has diagnosed a person with the wrong medical condition.
A misdiagnosis is dangerous, because it often results in unnecessary, ineffective and sometimes dangerous treatments. And the time and effort spent treating the wrong condition can often lead to the actual condition getting worse.
By the times the correct diagnosis is established, considerable pain, stress and further illness can have occured. In the worst cases, the correct diagnosis comes to late, and families have to live with the grief of a preventable loss.
What Is A Missed Diagnosis
A missed diagnosis is different and can cause more stress for those involved. Missed diagnosis occurs when there is a simple failure to diagnose to diagnose any condition at all. It occurs when doctors fail to identify the medical condition at the time they’re presented with it.
A good example of was reported last year by the BBC’s Panorama programme, which uncovered a large scale failure in some NHS Trusts for diagnosing Sepsis. Sepsis is a rare but serious complication of an infection. Without prompt treatment, it can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
Figures from 104 trusts in 2017 showed that 78% of eligible patients are being screened and 63% are getting antibiotics within one hour.
In one reported case, where the patient died of the condition, the was no evidence in the patient notes that sepsis had even been considered as a diagnosis by the doctors looking after her.
With a missed diagnosis, if the patient isn’t given necessary treatment at the time that they need it, the consequences can be serious.
Both a misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis can result in a medical condition worsening during the time it takes to correctly diagnose the problem. They are not a normal part of the medical process, and can be classed as medical negligence, if mistakes have been made.
The law does recognise that delays in diagnosis and failure to properly diagnosis are physically and emotionally damaging to individuals and their families. Particularly when human error or negligence has occurred.
If you’ve suffered as a result of a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis, talk to us today about your options.