Report Reveals Cancers More Likely to be Misdiagnosed than Other Diseases

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A report by the RCSI has revealed that cancers-particularly breast and colon-are more likely to be misdiagnosed by GPs than any other disease.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has released a report which indicates that the majority of malpractice claims made against GPs are due to missed or delayed diagnoses. The report was compiled by the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin, and was undertaken to identify the areas of primary care which should be focused on when planning future educational strategies and developing risk management systems for primary healthcare professionals.
The report has revealed that claims for compensation made against GPs often involve missed diagnoses or medication errors. Delayed diagnosis of breast cancer and colon cancer are responsible for more malpractice claims against GPs than any other form of medical negligence combined.

Dr Emma Wallace-the lead researcher involved in the report and practicing GP-has acknowledged that family doctors are practicing more defensively as the number of malpractice claims against them increases. More patients have been referred unnecessarily to consultants, which then leads to the identifiable condition to deteriorate and the patient to become more unwell.

The report has also identified that cancers of the skin, female genital tract and lungs were also identified later than they should have been, or were misdiagnosed, in addition to breast and colon cancer. In children, appendicitis and meningitis were the two illnesses that were more likely to be misdiagnosed than any other.

Dr Wallace has admitted that GP malpractice claims are “not a perfect substitute for adverse events”, and said that when malpractice claims are made against GPs, the doctors involved often experience higher levels of stress. This stress reduces the level of service they are able to offer and placing more patients at risk of a missed diagnosis or medication error.

She commented “this systematic review is timely considering the increased interest in focusing on primary care as a way of improving patient care and safety”. She hopes that the report provided an invaluable insight into the types and causes of adverse effects in clinical practice which would reduce the number of GP malpractice claims in Ireland.

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