More complain to medical boards
GPs are increasingly fronting medical boards over less serious compensation claims as patients denied access to the courts seek a hearing in other settings.
A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveals a rise in the number of cases in which no compensation payment was made – from 12.7% in 2004-05 to 19.2% in 2005-06.
The data takes into account all cases heard by courts, where patient compensation can be awarded, as well as medical boards and state bodies, such as healthcare complaint commissions, where compensation cannot be awarded.
The trend, according to Avant general claims manager Lisa Clarke, was the result of tort reforms that had introduced a “general damages threshold”, which meant only serious cases made it into courts. But unhappy patients were still seeking a hearing.
“People aren’t occupied with money; what they want is to understand what happened to them and for the doctor to say sorry it happened,” she said.
The AIHW report also showed a 10% increase in the proportion of claims settled for more than $100,000.
“Low value claims aren’t going through [the courts] – the remainder that do are of higher average value,” she said.
However, MIGA medico-legal manager Cheryl McDonald said growing patient expectations of GPs were also playing a part in the rise.