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Hospital GP Admits Liability For Failing To Spot Ankle Injury On X-Ray

GP admits failing to spot ankle injury
5th November 2015

A claimant with severe ankle damage, given an X-ray and told by a GP that “nothing was broken”, was later found to have torn his Achilles tendon.

The claimant had fallen backwards off a step and felt a ‘snap’ in the back of his left ankle. The injured area became swollen and discoloured, and was painful to move. Despite applying ice to the affected area there was no improvement to the ankle by the next morning and the claimant decided to visit his GP in the urgent care centre based at a local hospital.

Following an assessment by a nurse and the GP, an X-ray was taken. The GP advised that there was no bone fracture and told the claimant to “go home and rest.”  However, over the following weeks, the ankle failed to improve and after visiting his GP was referred to a foot specialist, who diagnosed tendonitis - inflammation of the tendon. 

Neglected rupture of the Achilles tendon

Unfortunately, the ankle still failed to heal. Five months later the claimant was finally referred to the orthopaedic department at the hospital where a consultant orthopaedic surgeon confirmed there was “clear evidence” of a chronic and neglected rupture of the Achilles tendon – the strong tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. 

In the subsequent investigation, it was initially unclear as to whether it was the GP or the NHS hospital who were responsible for owing a ‘duty of care’ to the patient. It was found that the NHS has “complex arrangements” in place, which allow commissioned private health care firms to provide services within the NHS.

As a result, the process to  bring the case to court took much longer. The GP did admit liability and the claim of negligence against the hospital trust and the private health care company were not pursued further.