The Medical Defence Union (MDU) is warning its GP and hospital doctor members to ensure they consider a diagnosis of Lyme disease, which is most common in spring and summer. A number of complaints and claims have been reported to the MDU in recent years, which primarily allege a delay in the diagnosis of this condition.
Dr Claire Wratten, MDU senior medical claims handler, said: “The diagnosis of Lyme disesase can be difficult to make because initial symptoms may be nonspecific and mistaken for other conditions. While a delay or failure in diagnosis is not necessarily negligent, if the condition remains untreated, patients may develop serious symptoms affecting mainly the neurological, cardiac and musculoskeletal systems, many months to years after the initial infection.
“Doctors may see increasing numbers of cases of Lyme disease in the future, as recent news reports have indicated a rise in the tick population, some of which carry the disease and can spread it to humans by biting and attaching themselves. In England and Wales, 684 cases of Lyme disease were reported last year and Scotland has seen a 10-fold increase in the numbers reported 10 years ago with 177 cases last year – which is why we are warning our members to be alert to the possibility of the disease in their patients.“
Despite the increase in incidence of Lyme disease, the MDU says it is likely that an individual doctor will only rarely see a case. In view of this, the MDU has issued the following advice to its members, aimed at avoiding delay or failure in diagnosis: