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Limited companies can face the threat of legal action as well as individual medical practitioners. Here are some examples of the types of cases where corporate associate membership would be required. 

These scenarios are fictional but based on real Medical Protection cases. 

Delayed assessment

A young woman comes into a practice run by a corporate body without an appointment on a day when all appointments are already fully booked. She tells the receptionist that she has recently fallen and has a bad headache. She asks for an emergency appointment but the receptionist feels it is unnecessary and tells her she cannot see a doctor until the following day.  

The woman returns home but collapses a few hours later. She is admitted to hospital with an extra-dural hemorrhage and unfortunately dies shortly after. Her family makes a demand for compensation from the organisation and threatens legal action. In this example, no clinician has seen the person nor provided healthcare but the organisation and receptionist may be found liable.

Flawed protocol

A group of GP practices set up a federation with the purpose of delivering extended access to patients in the area. The federation is registered as a limited company and directly employs a number of administrative and nursing staff.  

Nurse G runs a minor illness clinic every Saturday on behalf of the federation, nominally under the supervision of a doctor from one of the practices. On a busy morning she sees a 20 year old female patient complaining of lower abdominal pain, loose motions and malaise. Nurse G makes a diagnosis of gastroenteritis, noting a two day history of diarrhoea and vague abdominal pains. 

The patient develops severe abdominal pain the following day and collapses. Despite the efforts of paramedics she is pronounced dead on arrival at the emergency department. The post-mortem examination confirms the cause of death as haemorrhage from a ruptured right tubal pregnancy and the patient’s family bring a claim against the nurse for the missed diagnosis. 

An investigation finds that the protocol the nurse followed is deficient in that it does not include assessment of pulse and blood pressure, abdominal examination or an exploration of the patient’s menstrual and contraceptive history and potential pregnancy. In this example the nurse’s actions may not be regarded as erroneous but the limited company may be liable because of the inadequate protocol. 

Missing test result 

A middle aged man visits a practice run by a corporate medical group, citing various health concerns. His GP decides to undertake a series of blood tests, including a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. The patient then sees a phlebotomist and a number of blood samples are taken. However, the phlebotomist inadvertently fails to send a sample for the PSA test requested.  

The patient contacts the practice a week later to obtain his test results and is informed that all were normal. He wrongly assumes that this includes the PSA result. His GP fails to notice that the PSA test was not included in the list of tests that he reviewed, as he relies on the computer system to flag up any abnormal results. 

When the patient returns to his GP 12 months later his symptoms have increased in severity and his doctor realises the PSA test was not carried out when requested. An urgent specialist referral is made and the patient is diagnosed with prostate cancer. He makes a claim against the doctor and phlebotomist involved in his care. In this example the company may be liable for the error made by the phlebotomist. 

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