Negligence in clinical practice: avoiding the pitfalls

As healthcare practitioners we owe patients who engage our services a duty of care - a duty to cause no harm and to act professionally.


The following are tips to avoid the pitfalls that could result in clinical negligence culled from the lecture delivered at the University College Hospital Ibadan 60th anniversary celebration series of lectures.



● Acquire the knowledge and skills through learning and apprenticeship

● Be certified

● Practice within your area of expertise and within the limits of your competence

● Practice according to acceptable contemporary professional guidelines

● Anticipate difficult clinical situations and seek help or second opinion

● Situational awareness is essential in your practice to minimise errors

● Engage in continuous professional development


Communication and Teamwork

‘Communication is pivotal for good patient care’

● The patient must be at the centre of care

● Involve the patient (and family) in decision-making

● Discuss with patients in lay person language

● Counsel and ensure patients provide consent for investigations and treatment

● Work positively and effectively within the team

● Effective handover to the clinical staff

● Engage the multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach

● Discuss with the clinical services – imaging, laboratory

● Act on results in a timely manner

● Be honest, open and transparent when things go wrong




What is not written is not done

● Document discussions help with patients and colleagues

● Documentation must be comprehensive and contemporaneous

● Documentation must be legible



● Treat each patient with dignity

● Show compassion when you provide care

● Be available to listen and talk with patients, their families or carers

● Fulfil your elective responsibilities and attend promptly to urgent or life-threatening situations



● Ensure you are in good health

● Maintain a healthy work-life balance

● Strive for excellence


Prof Jaiyesimi is a medico-legal and clinical risk management expert. He has undertaken investigations on behalf of the NHS, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Health Professions Council (HPC) and as an independent clinical risk assessor and medical expert witness. He was a member of the General Medical Council (GMC) Fitness to Practise panels for 12 years and provides support to doctors undergoing GMC proceedings.



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