GP in patient removal row ordered to pay £500 compensation

A GP has been ordered to pay £500 in damages and reported to the GMC by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman after a patient removal row.

GP Dr Trevor Hampson of Northway Medical Centre in Dudley, West Midlands received a complaint from a patient, Mrs S, after sending her a letter asking her to apologise to a receptionist.

According to the Ombudsman report, Mrs S’s daughter suffered from an ongoing undiagnosed condition which caused her to pass out periodically.

In August 2010 Mrs S took her unconscious daughter to the Northway Medical Centre after she had collapsed at work.

It was after 6pm and, although the practice did not close until 6.30pm, the receptionist told Mrs S that there were no more appointments that day. Mrs S was advised to go to the walk-in centre or wait for an out-of-hours GP.

Mrs S became frustrated at this point and stormed out of the practice, pushing the door open with force as she did so. The receptionist said that as Mrs S was leaving she said: ‘This surgery is shit, I can’t believe I can’t get an appointment’, the report said.

The Ombudsman report said Mrs S complained that Dr Hampson had accused her of using offensive language towards one of the receptionists at the Northway Medical Centre, which she denies.

Mrs S said that Dr Hampson bullied her into leaving the practice by giving her 14 days to apologise or face removal from the patient list, the report said.

Having received the letter Mrs S registered herself with another GP. She complained to Northway Medical Centre about what had happened, but she was unhappy with the outcome and brought her complaint to the Ombudsman.

Mrs S’s complaint was upheld. The Ombudsman found that although Dr Hampson did not remove Mrs S from his practice’s list, he left her in no doubt that this would happen if she did not apologise.

The report said that Dr Hampson was aware of Mrs S’s daughter’s condition but there was no evidence that he had taken account of how Mrs S’s concern for her daughter would have impacted her actions.

Dr Hampson did not act in line with national and local guidance about removing patients from a GP list and his actions caused Mrs S distress and inconvenience, the report said.

Subsequently the Ombudsman instructed Dr Hampson to apologise to Mrs S. He was ordered to pay her £500 in ‘financial redress’. However he has not yet agreed to pay. 

Although Ombudsman investigations are normally private, the outcome of this investigation had been brought to the attention of parliament to encourage Dr Hampson to provide the ‘long overdue remedy’ to Mrs S, the Ombudsman said.

The findings have also been shared with the local PCT and with the GMC.

The Health Ombudsman, Ann Abraham said: ‘I have no doubt that having a patient storm out was an unpleasant experience for the practice’s staff. That does not remove the injustice experienced by Mrs S. In her words she was ‘bullied’ into finding a new GP practice after 24 years.’

Dudley LMC secretary Dr Tim Horsburgh said that Dr Hampson had not come to the LMC for help but the PCT had alerted the LMC to the issue.

Dr Horsburgh said it was worrying that the Ombudsman was able to ‘dish out’ fines to GPs.  

‘What is the limit for these fines, £500, £5000? I don’t know,’ Dr Horsburgh said.  

‘This issue has consequences for all practices,’ he added.

Northway Medical Practice said: ‘The Northway Medical Practice apologises for any upset caused to Mrs S and her family. As the report states, it was never our intention to start a formal removal request procedure and we apologise if the language used was misunderstood. Since this incident the practice has taken steps to learn lessons and ensure that this can’t happen again. We cannot comment further due to patient confidentiality.’

A spokeswoman for the PCT said: ‘The PCT will meet with the GP to discuss the Ombudsman’s report and would urge them to comply with the recommendations. The PCT will consider what action may be appropriate. The GP has provided assurances to the PCT of measures they have taken to learn from this complaint.’

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