Acute meniscal tear

The scene

A 58-year old man brought a claim against his GP for failings in the management of his right knee injury, resulting in the delayed diagnosis of an acute meniscal tear.

The patient was involved in a road traffic accident but did not seek medical advice for approximately two and a half weeks afterwards, at which point he consulted his GP. The notes from this consultation indicate that he only discussed matters concerning his chronic asthma.

He saw the same GP approximately two weeks later. The consultation notes indicate that the patient again discussed his asthma. Following the second consultation, the patient sought medical advice from different GPs on over 20 occasions, over a period of just over eight months. The advice sought during these consultations did not include any symptoms relating to the knee injury.

Some nine months after the accident, the patient consulted his GP again and explained that his leg had 'given way', causing him to fall over. The GP examined the knee, found no concerns and prescribed him analgesia. The patient returned two weeks later and was referred to the musculoskeletal service at his local hospital.

The patient was seen in the orthopaedic clinic approximately six months later and underwent an arthroscopy and, later, a partial medial meniscectomy.

The claim

The patient complained that the GP had failed to adequately investigate his knee complaint, nor to document the several discussions he claimed had taken place regarding the injury.

The patient subsequently instructed solicitors and issued court proceedings. The allegations were that, during the first and second consultations, the GP member failed to appropriately examine the patient's knee, consider the cause of the symptoms, and adequately record the discussions and examinations concerning the patient's knee symptoms. It was alleged that, as a result of the GP's actions, the patient's injury went untreated for nine months.

The patient was involved in a road traffic accident but did not seek medical advice for approximately two and a half weeks afterwards, at which point he consulted his GP

Expert evidence from a consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon instructed by the claimant noted that there was no suggestion that the patient's pain had become worse between the first consultation and his eventual referral. The expert concluded that the patient's long-term outcome and prognosis would not have been assisted by an earlier referral.

The MDU obtained independent expert evidence from a GP. The expert concluded that it would be reasonable for a GP to omit to record a minor matter at the end of a long consultation concerning an entirely different matter, but that the opinion would turn on the severity of the knee symptoms discussed.

The patient's solicitors made a settlement offer, which the MDU did not accept on the basis of the supportive expert evidence obtained. With the member's consent, the MDU made an offer for the claim to be discontinued on the basis of each party bearing their own costs, which was duly accepted. The claim was therefore discontinued before service of the defence was due.

This page was correct at publication on 14/03/2017. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.