• dermatology;
  • legal claims;
  • National Health Service Scotland

SummaryBackground An area of current National Health Service (NHS) interest is risk management as it is one of the requirements of clinical governance. If there are aspects of dermatological practice prone to mishap or dispute then a review of legal claims in dermatology may highlight these areas. This would then allow input into these specific areas of practice to try and minimize future risk.

Objectives To review all legal claims relating to NHS Dermatology in Scotland and characterize the main areas of risk.

Methods Staff at the Central Legal Office in Edinburgh reviewed all legal claims in NHS Dermatology between 1989 and 2001. Details provided were general, and claimants, staff, hospitals and regions of Scotland could not be identified.

Results Thirty claims were identified relating to five main areas of dermatological practice: (i) phototherapy (eight claims); (ii) therapeutics (eight); (iii) cryosurgery/cryotherapy (six); (iv) surgery (four); and (v) misdiagnosis (three) and one alleged neurological problem after fainting. As well as consultants, nurses featured in phototherapy claims and junior medical staff in cryosurgery claims. Twelve of the 30 (40%) claims have reached settlement; three claims are presently outstanding.

Conclusions Given the numbers of patients seen annually at Scottish NHS Hospital Dermatology units the absolute number of claims is low. Five main areas within dermatology were highlighted as at risk of litigation and this has implications for all U.K. dermatology departments with regard to funding, staff training and patient information and consent.