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Warning over ‘tsunami’ of future claims and investigations

The Government must commit adequate resource to clearing the backlog of referrals and delayed follow-ups in secondary care “if we are to avoid a potential patient safety crisis and a tsunami of future claims or investigations” the Medical Protection Society (MPS) said today.

A recent survey of MPS members revealed that nearly 2 in 5 doctors (38 per cent) are concerned that they will face a regulatory or criminal investigation if patients come to harm as a result of delayed referrals or non-Covid-19 services being unavailable or limited.

 “The need to reduce the number of patients attending healthcare facilities and the suspension of routine investigations and outpatient appointments has resulted in a large backlog of referrals across many specialities and in many centres,” said Dr Rob Hendry, MPS Medical Director.

“It will take some time for all services to be up and running normally. Covid-19 will continue to bring pressures and complications, compounded by the upcoming winter, and this is on top of the referral back log.

“Buried within these many delayed referrals will be patients with serious conditions, not yet identified. For some, if diagnoses are missed or significantly delayed this could seriously impact those patients’ prognoses and outcomes. It’s not difficult to see how we could be facing another different kind of patient safety crisis.”

Dr Hendry said that there is a “strong argument for the introduction of emergency laws to protect doctors from investigations arising from impossible situations like this.”

“But our hope is that through Government led planning, support, resource and sharing of best practice and learnings, the referral backlog will be dealt with expeditiously and any looming crisis averted.”

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