Doctors fear delayed referrals could lead to investigation

Doctors fear delayed referrals could lead to investigation

Nearly 2 in 5 doctors (38%) are concerned that they could face regulatory or criminal investigation if patients come to harm as a result of delayed referrals or non-Covid-19 services being unavailable or limited during the Covid-19 crisis, according to research conducted for Medical Protection, an organisation that protects and supports the professional interests of over 21,000 doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals in Ireland.

Calling on the Government to commit resources to clear a backlog of referrals and delayed follow-ups in secondary care, Medical Protection today (11 June 2020) said that the suspension of routine investigations and outpatient appointments during the Covid-19 crisis, has resulted in a large backlog of referrals across many specialities and in many centres.


Earlier this month (2 June 2020) the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) warned the Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 that 570,000 people are waiting for an outpatient appointment and a further 230,000 are on a waiting list for an inpatient or day-case procedure.

Medical Protection says that delayed referrals will include patients with serious conditions, not yet identified.

“For some, if diagnoses are missed or significantly delayed this could seriously impact those patients’ prognoses and outcomes … The prospect of an adverse outcome under these circumstances would be devastating for any patient, and the psychological impact on the already emotionally and physically exhausted doctors involved would be significant. Such situations may also give rise to a tsunami of medicolegal disputes, claims and investigations – indeed nearly two in five of our members tell us they’re concerned about this,” commented Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director.

As fallout from the pandemic continues to be felt in the health sector over the coming months, we are likely to see increased scrutiny of the impact on non Covid-19 patients. In the meantime, if you are concerned about any of the issues discussed, please get in touch