Wednesday, September 30, 2009
One in six NHS patients 'misdiagnosed'
As many as one in six patients treated in NHS hospitals and GPs’ surgeries is being misdiagnosed, experts have warned.
By Kate Devlin and Rebecca Smith
Doctors were making mistakes in up to 15 per cent of cases because they were too quick to judge patients’ symptoms, they said, while others were reluctant to ask more senior colleagues for help.
While in most cases the misdiagnosis did not result in the patient suffering serious harm, a sizeable number of the millions of NHS patients were likely to suffer significant health problems as a result, according to figures. It was said that the number of misdiagnoses was “just the tip of the iceberg”, with many people still reluctant to report mistakes by their doctors.
There was a call for better reporting methods to ensure that each misdiagnosis was recorded and monitored properly.
Prof Graham Neale, of the Imperial Centre for Patient Safety and Service Quality at Imperial College London, who is carrying out research into cases of misdiagnosis in the NHS, said it was a problem that was not being adequately dealt with.
“There is absolutely no doubt that this is being under-reported,” he said. “But more importantly they are not being adequately analysed.
“Trainee doctors are too quick to judgment, that is one of the problems that we face.”
He added, however, that in many cases, the medical errors were rectified within 48 hours.
The experts drew on research published in the American Journal of Medicine that estimated that up to 15 per cent of all medical cases in developed countries were misdiagnosed.
Earlier this year, the Healthcare Commission found that missed or wrong diagnoses were a major cause of complaints to the NHS. Of more than 9,000 complaints analysed, almost one in 10 related to a delay in diagnosis or the wrong diagnosis being made. Separate research also suggested that one in 10 patients in hospital was harmed because of the care they received.