Q; In April I tripped over a tree root on the river bank and hurt my ankle and knee, both swelled badly. I could only get a telephone appointment with my GP who referred me for a physio appointment which came several weeks later via another telephone appointment. She gave me exercises to do but the pain increased, four weeks later the swelling remained. I called the surgery again but was told I would have to wait for an out-of-hours appointment elsewhere. This doctor immediately sent me to hospital for a scan which showed my ankle had actually broken and was now set in the wrong position. I may never walk properly again. Can I hold the GP responsible and claim compensation? Or the physio? Or the environment agency, who are responsible for maintaining the river bank?
A: Two tricky questions present themselves here. Dealing with the tree root which caused the injury first, it is unlikely that a natural feature could be classed as a defect or even a hazard that required a warning. Exceptions would be on any well used routeway, where the landowners should assess the risk to users and put in appropriate measures. This could be warning signs or maintenance or even re-routing of the routeway.
Whether the GP has breached her duty of care to you is a more difficult question. The test is whether a reasonable doctor in that position would have done what they did. Depending on the history given by you this could be reasonable treatment. This is where telephone appointments have their limitations. If there was still swelling by the time the physiotherapy appointment arrived I am surprised that you were not referred for an x-ray at that stage. Depending on the fracture, the outcome may have not been different, but the course of treatment doesn’t seem to have followed the usual course that we would expect. This should be investigated further with a local solicitor.
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