The Medical Defence Union (MDU) issued the advice after GPs used meeting minutes to defend themselves against a claim made after 16 years.
A patient who developed cervical cancer after failing to attend for smear tests over a 9-year period sued the six GPs for not informing her about the importance of the tests.
The practice had sent her several reminders over the years.
The woman was diagnosed with cervical cancer aged 28 and later developed secondary lung metastasis.
She alleged this was because she had not been told in strong enough terms that she needed a repeat smear at aged 19.
The GPs were able to use meeting minutes to prove that the practice policy had changed on when postnatal smear tests were carried out.
Dr Glynis Parker, senior medical claims handler at the MDU, said it showed the importance of keeping meeting minutes and appointment books.
She said that they could provide a picture of practice policies and procedures in the event of a claim, which could arise many years after an incident.
‘Fortunately, the practice had kept meeting minutes and one of the GPs involved was able to use these to show that a smear had not been done at a six-week postnatal check because the practice had changed its policy to perform smears at six months post delivery,’ she said.
In this case, the practice had not recorded each time the patient was advised to attend for a smear in the first few years. However, later consultations did record this.
The judge found that the woman would not have attended even if she had been warned of the risks.
Dr Parker said: ‘Despite the practice repeatedly reminding the patient in this case, both verbally and in writing, to attend for smear tests, she did not attend for many years with severe consequences.’
The case history is publishes in the latest edition of the MDU’s GP registrar update journal.
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