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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has proposed that in future each elderly or vulnerable patient should have one doctor or nurse responsible for their overall care.
Older members of the public will remember when you used to see the same GP every appointment, except for unexpected emergencies or if the doctor was on holiday. However, over time this coordinating role has been lost which has resulted in a loss of consistency of care.
A pattern emerged in our caseload where patients with progressive illnesses were being undiagnosed because they never saw the same person twice and so a pattern of deteriorating health was not recognised until the patient’s condition was so serious they had to be admitted to hospital.
In one family, two patients had symptoms of deteriorating kidney disease. They were seen by various partners in a group practice where the importance and the severity of the symptoms was not picked up until they had to be admitted to hospital for nephrectomy and lithotripsy to deal with missed kidney stones.
The same pattern persists in hospitals where the patient can be seen by several different doctors or nurses in succession, none of whom spot a pattern of deterioration because they are all seeing the patient for the first time. This failure of coordination can lead to serious conditions being missed.
It therefore makes a lot of sense to make sure that one doctor or nurse takes responsibility for the care of each vulnerable or elderly patients even when they are not in hospital. With health service re-organisations frequently taking place we are often told by our clients that they don’t know where to turn when they have a health concern, which can be a frightening position to be in. We therefore fully support this proposal as we see that continuity of care is vital in ensuring the best treatment for patients, to reduce occurrences of medical misdiagnosis, and will be a much more reassuring position for patients.
It will therefore be a major bonus for patients if the ‘new’ system of having one clinician responsible for coordinating a patient’s care becomes established. It may seem a backward step to some but we think this will lead to a massive saving in damages and legal costs that follow the inevitable consequences of poorly organised and inconsistent care that seems to be the present position.
If you or your family feel that poorly organised medical care may have led to a worsening of your condition or a delay in your recovery then you should seek advice from a specialist and experienced clinical negligence solicitor.