Review of MDU files shows nurses face similar medico-legal concerns as doctors

We’re helping nurse practitioner members with support and advice across a wide range of investigations.

A review of MDU nurse files over the last five years shows nurses now face a similar range of medico-legal processes as doctors, particularly with nursing roles expanding within the practice.

Between 2017 and 2021, we helped 400 nurse members with complaints, claims, disciplinary procedures and NMC investigations. The number of cases remains steady compared to a previous five-year period, despite the fact that claims arising from incidents after 1 April 2019 are dealt with by NHS Resolution.

The types of cases we've helped with include many investigations arising from a single clinical incident (known as multiple jeopardy), such as patient complaints, disciplinary inquiries, NMC investigations, claims for negligence and even criminal investigations.

Reasons for complaints

  1. The most common enquiry was wrong or delayed diagnosis. Cancer was the most common missed condition, closely followed by a serious infection, then fractures.
  2. Communication failure or 'poor attitude' was the second most common concern. This issue could be seen in isolation or as part of a wider complaint. It was also cited as an issue in several NMC investigations.
  3. Delayed referrals or investigations.
  4. Prescribing errors - many of these being vaccine-related.
  5. Complications following procedures such as suture removal, phlebotomy, cervical smears and injections.
  6. Contraceptive advice or treatment complications.
  7. Inadequate wound care, especially in diabetics or patients who were bed-bound.

How we can help

In addition to expert medico-legal advice and individual indemnity cover from the MDU, our support extends to patient complaints, NMC referrals, ombudsman investigations, local disciplinary processes, coroners' inquests or fatal accident inquiries, and even criminal investigations.

These areas are not covered by the state-backed indemnity scheme in England and Wales, which came into force on 1 April 2019 - this only covers clinical negligence claims arising from primary care work under an NHS England or Wales contract.

Nurse practitioner members who face medico-legal concerns can contact us any time for support and advice.

Read our advice for nurse practitioners on minimising the risk of complaints.

Find out more about joining the MDU as a nurse practitioner.

This page was correct at publication on 06/07/2022. 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.

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