*The contents in this blog relates to legislation in New South Wales.

Clear and effective communication is important in most industries, particularly the medical industry.

Our public health system is structured in a way that allows junior doctors to train under the guidance and supervision of specialist consultants. In practice this means that a patient who presents to the emergency room of a tertiary public hospital is often examined by junior doctors. This structure is not limited to emergency presentations and operates in most public hospital outpatient departments including fracture clinics and obstetric clinics. Those clinics enable patients to receive specialist care and treatment in the public health system, if patients are not financially able to pay the medical fee of private specialist. However, those patients are unable to choose the doctor that treats them and there is no guarantee that they will be reviewed by the specialist or the same junior doctor at each follow-up appointment. This does not mean that supervising specialist are not involved in treating public patients.

Some tertiary hospitals have specialists that are available on the ward and examine patients. However, this is not always the case and some public hospitals have specialists who are only remotely available. Those specialists are remotely consulted by junior doctors and often rely entirely on the information provided to them by the junior doctors to make clinical decisions. In those settings, the specialists do not have the benefit of obtaining a patient’s history or physically examining the patient and determining the clinical picture before recommending treatment. This may result in a lack of a clear management plan and an increase in the risk of medical errors due to disruption in the continuity of care. For example, a junior doctor may not attach significance to a piece of crucial clinical information, which results in the information not getting conveyed to the specialist, and so the specialist recommends an inappropriate treatment plan. Both the quality and the accuracy of the information that is being communicated between a team of junior doctors and their supervising specialist are incredibly important to patient outcomes.

We are quite fortunate to have one of the best public health systems in the world. However, if clinical information is not clearly communicated within a team of treating clinicians, this could result in adverse outcomes to patients. Adverse outcomes could result in the requirement for costly medical treatment, and, the development of life-long disability, chronic pain and even death.

Get in touch

If you or a loved one had a poor outcome following medical treatment, you may be entitled to compensation. It is important that you get advice as to your legal options. At Turner Freeman, we have specialist medical negligence lawyers who will assess your case and provide personalised advice regarding your legal entitlements. Our medical negligence lawyers are located across NSW including in our offices in ParramattaSydneyWollongongNewcastle and Toronto. If you are concerned about any medical treatment, get in touch with us on 13 43 63.