Successful claim against GP for failure to diagnose an Achilles tendon rupture

Case studies

Successful claim against GP for failure to diagnose an Achilles tendon rupture

We settled a claim against a GP in Surrey for the failure to appropriately diagnose an Achilles tendon rupture, and for the failure to refer the claimant for urgent treatment.

In late September 2012, our client reported that he had stepped over a puddle in the road onto a pavement. He felt a “snap” in the back of his calf and experienced severe pain to the back of his left calf muscle. Prior to this incident, he had been referred by his GP for physiotherapy for problems with his long-standing tendonitis. He therefore sought advice from his physiotherapist who examined our client’s left leg to check the continuity of the tendon. Following a brief examination, the physiotherapist advised that the left Achilles tendon had been torn and so our client was advised to book an appointment with his GP in order to be referred to an ankle specialist.

As instructed, our client duly attended his GP surgery as recommended and reported the history of his Achilles tendon injury and of the physiotherapist’s diagnosis of an Achilles tendon rupture. But the GP did not perform any examinations on his injured leg and just advised him that a referral would be made to an orthopaedic surgeon.

It transpired that the GP stated on the referral letter that advice was required on the patient’s long standing tendonitis, but failed to accurately state that he was being referred under the suspicion of an Achilles tendon rupture. Our client was therefore only treated as a routine and non-urgent case which resulted in a three month delay in being seen by a specialist.

Because of the delay, our client was informed by his treating specialist that the tendon ends had completely separated and “shrivelled up”. As a consequence, the only option for treatment was that of extensive surgery which would involve tendon grafting. Our client was informed by the specialist that, if the GP had accurately stated the nature of his injuries three months previously, he would have been seen as an urgent case and would have had the option for non-surgical treatment by way of a plaster cast.

We were instructed by the client to pursue a claim against the GP for the failure to appropriately take a full history of his injury; to examine his injured leg; and to refer him to either A&E or to the orthopedic team urgently under the suspicion of an Achilles tendon rupture. During the course of the claim, we obtained medical evidence from an expert orthopaedic surgeon who was of the view that, as a result of the three month delay, our client’s prospect of achieving a good outcome - even with a surgical repair - was very poor. The expert also found that it is likely that our client will be left with permanent problems with poor function, walking and weight bearing.

A letter of claim was submitted to the defendant GP’s representatives which set out the allegations of negligence in our client's care. Despite liability being thoroughly contested, we secured a settlement without the need to issue court proceedings.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP