GP out of hours death case settles for £65,000

Our client, a 68 year old woman from Whitstable, Kent, lost her husband in October 2012 (he was then aged 69) as a consequence of the negligence of an out-of-hours GP.

The deceased had attended on the out-of-hours GP at the Kent & Canterbury Hospital complaining of right sided pain which was radiating to his abdomen, and vomiting. The GP undertook no proper examination of the abdomen, failed to take or record his blood pressure or temperature, and diagnosed a back strain. The deceased therefore went home and remained in pain, before calling an ambulance 3 days later.

Having been rushed to hospital, he was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) and was quickly taken to surgery. However, at surgery, the AAA was found to have ruptured, and he sadly died on the operating table.

Positive expert evidence was obtained from both a GP and a vascular surgeon.

The claim was advanced against the GP for failing to undertake adequate investigations and for failing to either diagnose the AAA, or for failing to be sufficiently concerned so as to refer the deceased to hospital for urgent further investigations. Had an urgent referral taken place (on either basis) our client would have been diagnosed with an AAA and would have undergone surgery earlier than he did, such that he would likely have survived.

The Defendant did not contest the claim that the deceased would otherwise have survived, but chose to put forward a defence that the GP had acted reasonably and had not breached his duty of care towards the deceased.

Further input was obtained by our GP expert and a strong rebuttal was sent to the Defendant.

Very shortly thereafter, the Defendant made an opening offer of £50,000. Settlement negotiations were then conducted, largely focussing on the likely life expectancy of the deceased had a successful AAA repair been performed. Settlement was reached in the sum of £65,000.

Alex Tengroth, who had conduct of the claim, commented:

This was a tragic case in which our expert evidence indicated that the out-of-hours GP failed to perform basic investigations, failed to diagnose a large AAA, and failed to refer the deceased urgently to hospital (despite seeing him on the hospital site).

The lack of resources available to local hospitals, and the scaling back of many A&E departments, has resulted in an increased reliance on minor injuries units and out-of-hours GPs, but time and again these services are found wanting. It really is a dire state of affairs for patients who are in need of emergency care outside of a normal working week.”