Are GPs right to fear compensation claims for helping?

A recent survey has revealed that 21% of GPs are unsure or would refuse to help someone who needed medical attention, if they were off-duty. They said fear of facing a compensation claim if something went wrong was the main reason for their attitude. The online survey was conducted by the British Medical Journal, and was published only weeks after a GP in Hertfordshire refused to leave his practice to help a 88-year-old woman who had fallen on the pavement outside and cut her head.

When asked later why the GP had not helped, or why the practice had refused to provide a defibrillator – or even a blanket to keep the elderly woman warm – the practice manager said they had been sued before in similar circumstances. There is no legal duty in the UK on GPs to help if they happen to come across someone who needs medical assistance, although the General Medical Council says doctors have a ‘moral duty’ to do all they can in such circumstances. Even the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t specifically state that doctors should help passers-by who need treatment, but in any case, medical students are not required to take the oath and in the UK only around 50% of medical students do so – in the US it’s 98%.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that what the survey of 350 doctors shows is that the vast majority of doctors will help when off duty, 79% of them, in fact. Many doctors have indemnity for so-called ‘good Samaritan’ acts, but actually very few ever face a compensation claim, even if something does go wrong. People in the UK are reluctant to make a compensation claim against doctors, and only tend to go down this route if they have a strong and clear reason for doing so.

PHC Law is one of the UK’s most reputable compensation claims firms, with over 100 years’ combined experience of advising people about making a compensation claim – and whether there are grounds to make a claim in the first place. They are not in the business of helping people to make bogus compensation claims but do want to help people who have a genuine reason for seeking compensation. They have a 98% success rate and their legal team are happy to offer advice on the claim process.