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GP defers telling patient he has cancer

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/06/2017

A GP who did not tell one of his patients that he had cancer, preferring the hospital to do so, took away the chance for the patient "to be a partner in his own treatment".

On March 27, 2012, a man, aged 78, saw his GP, complaining of a sore knee, a recent slowing of speech and a "fizzing feeling" in his feet, according to a Health and Disability Commissioner report issued on Tuesday.

Blood tests were conducted, which showed a high level of lymphocytes - a further test by a haemotologist reported the results were consistent with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, a type of blood cancer.

The results were not forwarded to the outpatients clinic where a referral was sent by the GP and nor were they discussed with the patient, as the doctor expected "the investigations would be reviewed by the medical team at the hospital".

The report did not identify the doctor, patient or medical practice.

Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill said the GP "had a responsibility to communicate the diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia to the man... provision of this information would have enabled the man to be a partner in his own treatment".

Dr Hill also found the GP had the chance to put in a management plan for his patient and arrange further assessment, but failed to do so, along with communicating properly with the hospital.

A review of management and communication of high priority test results to patients by the medical centre and an audit of all the GP's clinical records going back six months was recommended by Dr Hill.

A written apology to the patient should also be provided, he said.

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