Sessional GPs: the medico-legal risks
Sessional GPs are in a unique position that could expose them to more medico-legal risk than other GPs.
Unlike permanent GPs, sessional GPs often only have one opportunity to make a good first impression, and a bad impression can provoke some patients to seek redress, when, in most cases, there has been no human error. If a patient regards a doctors manner as abrupt or heavy-handed, they may become dissatisfied, which, in our experience, gives rise to more complaints and claims.
Most incidents leading to medico-legal problems fall into one of the following categories:
•Failure of communication, including inadequate medical records.
•Failure to appreciate legal and professional responsibilities
•Problems in clinical management
There are a number of actions that sessional GPs can pursue to minimise the risks they face in general practice. This is not an extensive list, but it can be used as a starting point:
•Address unrealistic expectations: Practices and sessional GPs need to develop a shared understanding of how to work together effectively. Discuss the realities of being a sessional GP: a safe sessional GP may need longer to consult patients.
•Be proactive in sharing information: Encourage practices to provide a sessional GP information pack containing local information, such as the practice-based services, secondary care and support services.
•Join a sessional GP support group: sessional GPs can become professionally isolated and it is easy to let professional development slip. Joining a group will allow you to share clinical and practical problems.
•Develop your own systems: By creating your own safety checklist for handovers and information transfer you will safeguard your practice.
•Clear objectives: Before you start at a practice be clear about what you will and wont do.
•Get feedback: Performance feedback is essential for good risk management. Dont wait for it, ask for it.
MPS has launched an annual magazine called 'Sessional GP', which combines medico-legal advice with practical guidance on how to avoid problems commonly encountered by sessional GPs. Members can also contact the MPS 24-hour medico-legal advice line if they encounter any problems: 0845 605 4000.
Sara Williams is editor of 'Sessional GP' and a writer and editor at MPS.