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a contraceptive pill imageNovember 10 2017

Recognised complications such as deep vein thrombosis are the most common reason for a woman taking contraception to make a complaint against a doctor.

The Medical Defence Union says that of 161 cases involving contraception that it dealt with between 2014 and 2016, most had been prescribed by GPs. In 30 cases the woman had alleged that she had developed a known complication.

Other reasons for cases included:

  • mixing up the names of a commonly used contraceptive injection with a steroid injection leading to a medication error;
  • contraceptive implants being incorrectly sited;
  • a failure by the doctor to exclude pregnancy before prescribing contraception.

In a small number of cases, patients complained about the doctor's unprofessional attitude, illustrating the sensitive nature of the discussions necessary when patients request contraception.

The MDU has issued some advice for doctors to help to minimise contraceptive prescribing risks, including:

  • discuss carefully with patients what treatments are available, and in particular the risks and side effects of each when getting consent;
  • ensure that you are appropriately qualified in prescribing and performing any invasive procedures;
  • take care when administering injections to check the label carefully to prevent the administration of an incorrect drug;
  • take a careful sexual and menstrual history – this is important to assess the risk of an existing pregnancy before you provide contraception;
  • handle discussion of past history with sensitivity, expressing the need to ask personal questions;
  • document the discussion and make sure the patient is aware of and understands the associated risks.

Commenting on the analysis, Dr Beverley Ward, MDU medico-legal adviser, said: “It is essential that doctors providing these treatments to mostly young and healthy patients, bear in mind the risk of complications. It's also important for doctors to ensure they are appropriately trained and regularly update their skills, especially when performing invasive procedures such as inserting contraceptive implants.”

Links:
MDU announcement   

Professional News

January 19 2018 A new parliamentary report is recommending that GPs should immediately request a blood test for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of blood cancer. In addition, the report says...
January 19 2018 A new parliamentary report is recommending that GPs should immediately request a blood test for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of blood cancer. In addition, the report says...