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16-10-2012 | General practice | Article

GP surgery complication warning


Medical Defence Union

medwireNews: GPs must be careful to monitor patients after carrying out minor surgery, warns the Medical Defence Union (MDU).

The medical indemnity group found that over a third of problems arising from minor surgery in recent complaints made against GPs were due to post-operative complications such as infections, bleeding and pain.

In some of these cases, better monitoring would have enabled the GP to pick up on complications earlier, said medico-legal advisor Dr Ellen O'Dell.

"Post-operative complications are a risk in any invasive procedure so careful monitoring is important. In six cases in our study, patients complained that they hadn't been properly warned about possible complications or scarring. It is important that patients are provided with sufficient warnings as part of the consent discussion and that this is documented in the patient's notes," said Dr O'Dell in a press statement.

The MDU review of 112 complaints and claims notified by GP members over a recent 4-year period showed that 42 (37.5%) involved post-operative complications. A total of 18 claims were settled, with payments ranging from £500 for a diathermy burn to over £220,000 to a man left in pain after a vasectomy.

Delays in diagnosis or referral were the cause of 13 complaints, while unsuccessful outcomes accounted for nine and scarring a further nine. Failure to obtain consent was the main allegation in three cases but also featured in six others.

New advice outlined in the latest issue of the MDU's Good Practice journal includes a reminder that GPs should always provide patients with information about follow-up arrangements and post-operative care, and who to contact if any complications arise.

The advice also highlights the need to carry our regular audits of minor surgery, including clinical outcomes, and to ensure any delegated tasks are carried out by someone trained and competent to do the work.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price