5 Ways Doctors Can Protect Against Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice is a huge concern for many practising physicians. In fact, around 13,000 medical malpractice claims were submitted in the UK in 2022/23, and figures suggest that the NHS gets sued every 40 minutes.

But as a doctor, how can you avoid claims of negligence against your name and the damage this can cause to your reputation? In reality, the only way to avoid medical practice entirely is not to practise medicine, but that isn’t why you spent all those years at medical school, is it?

These tips can help you avoid putting yourself at risk of being sued for mistakes you might make or have been accused of making.

Have Insurance

OK, so medical indemnity insurance won’t stop you from getting sued; however, it will be extremely helpful in any medical malpractice case. Ensuring the policy you take out covers you for your specialty, and any level of cover will allow you to seek the help and support you need is vital. Not all medical indemnity policies are the same, so reading the small print before signing on the dotted line is essential.

Stay Up To Date

Did you know that most medical malpractice claims are based on routine procedures and tests? This is because the physician has become complacent, hasn’t paid enough attention to new information or guidelines, and is simply performing the procedure without considering advancements.

Stay on top of new techniques, tools, and technologies in your area of medicine, and ensure you have the latest information and knowledge in your speciality to help you deliver the best care and treatment.

Don’t Overprescribe

Ordering every test in the book to cover yourself and avoid missing anything to prevent malpractice claims can be tempting. However, the more tests and procedures you expose your patient to, the more the risks present themselves. Each test, each examination, and contact with others will present another opportunity for something to go wrong. Do avoid overprescribing tests and even medication “just in case” so you don’t open yourself up to more instances of medical malpractice.

Document Everything

It’s not always possible to write down everything, but you need to record as much data as possible to help you, and others understand why you decided to do what you did and why you thought this way best. And that last bit is more important. Don’t just document what you found and what you did, but include the “why” behind the decision. Why did you decide to order that specific test, why did you decide one course of treatment was preferable to another, and why did you make these decisions? This can help people understand your thought process, and in the future, if any issues arise, instead of it simply being a case of the patient having xxx tests and being offered xxx treatment options, you can see why you chose that specific route.

Be Nice

To yourself, your patients, and those helping you provide the care, be honest, communicate effectively, and treat everyone as you wish them to treat you or even your parents or grandparents if it helps. What would you want to know if you were in their shoes, and how would you like the news to be delivered and communicated?

The nicer you are to your patients, the more approachable and honest you are, and the better the relationship is, the less likely it will be that if something goes wrong, they will immediately look to sue you. They will see you as a trusted part of their healthcare journey, not a figure they need to take down in court to get answers.

Protecting yourself against malpractice claims is sadly part and parcel of modern healthcare. When treating patients, you should always be mindful of how your words and actions can impact others and how this will impact them moving forward.

Tatiana Rehmova

A glass half-full kind of a girl and a believer that everything happens for a reason, Tatiana works in Media Relations and is the Content Producer. She loves writing, spotting inspiring stories, and building meaningful relationships.