Unhappy patients say misdiagnosis of conditions leading to their illnesses getting worse and being given the wrong course of treatment are their biggest frustrations when seeing GPs and specialists.
A quarter of people (25%) questioned about their medical care said they felt their doctors simply didn’t give them enough time at their appointments, with one in 10 saying they feel a visit to a GP now rarely solves their health problem.
Of those unhappy with their medical care, one in five said it was because their illness had worsened after being misdiagnosed by a medical professional.
More than a quarter of those unhappy (26%) said they felt they had been given the wrong treatment, with 29% feeling medical professionals had simply failed to recognise their illness.
Overall, the vast majority of patients in the UK (86%) say they are happy with their own GP.
Despite a quarter bemoaning the lack of time given to appointments, a reluctance to ‘be a burden on the NHS’, and a belief that their conditions will improve without seeing a doctor has led to 92 per cent of people saying they only visit when they think they really have to.
Brits also admitted to being reluctant when it comes to expressing their concerns over their treatment, with less than one in five (18%) saying they’d feel confident enough to challenge a diagnosis given to them.
The research has been conducted by medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, who support many patients in cases involving late diagnosis or misdiagnosis of serious conditions.
Caroline Murgatroyd, a clinical negligence specialist at the firm, says the survey results are concerning in that many people have indicated reluctance to see their doctor – and that a high percentage will not ask questions.
She has urged people to visit their GP if they have a health concern.
She said: “What we can see from this research is that, although overall there is quite rightly a great deal of trust placed in medical professionals, there is also a growing reluctance to go to the doctor in the first place, as many people are of the opinion that their appointments are too rushed, they do not wish to trouble the doctor or they believe their illness will simply get better on its own.
“Whilst we don’t want to see doctors’ surgeries full because people are visiting unnecessarily, what we would say is that it is vital that people seek professional medical advice when they notice an unexplained change in their health.
“On top of this, the survey suggests the vast majority of people in the UK feel reluctant to challenge a medical professionals’ diagnosis.
“We see patients and families who have harboured concerns about their treatment for weeks, months and sometimes years. These concerns have all too often been dismissed and a full investigation of the potential cause of the illness has not been carried out.
“If you feel unhappy with a diagnosis from a doctor or specialist we would suggest raising this with your doctor and if you do not receive an adequate explanation it may be worthwhile asking for a second opinion.”
The research findings follow a recent case in which Mary Badham, 65, was referred to a specialist by her own GP after displaying ‘red flag’ symptoms of bowel cancer.
The specialist dismissed it as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), sending her home with tablets and without carrying out a colonoscopy.
Two years later, Mrs Badham was invited to attend Bowel Cancer Screening as part of the national NHS’ screening programme, where she discovered she had cancer and that it was terminal. She died less than three years later, in April 2014, aged 72.
Now, her husband Ron Badham, 79, and son Stephen, say they wish they had insisted tests be carried out, and are urging others to demand further investigation by medical professionals if concerns seem to be too easily dismissed.
They took legal action through Hudgell Solicitors, resulting in the trust which runs the hospital where she was seen admitting its failure to carry out a colonoscopy in 2009 amounted to breach of duty.