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Saturday, 13 January, 2001, 00:16 GMT
Post-traumatic stress 'misdiagnosed'
A man with back pain
Employees claim post-traumatic stress for doing jobs
A 'trauma industry' of lawyers, experts and claimants are pushing compensation claims higher than they should be, say experts.

They say a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is only applicable to extreme cases of psychological distress.

But the condition is commonly being misdiagnosed to add weight to compensation claims.

A paper by Dr Derek Summerfield, honorary senior lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry, St George's Hospital Medical School, London, says lawyers, psychiatrists and claimants have been banding together in an attempt to get higher pay-outs.

Cash pay-out higher

He said a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can push the pay-out awards for psychological damages up 'several times' higher.

He said: "There is a veritable trauma industry comprising experts, lawyers, claimants, and other interested parties.

"An encounter between a sympathetic psychiatrist and a claimant is primed to produce a report of post-traumatic stress disorder if that is what the lawyer says the rules require and what has, in effect, been commissioned."

Increasingly the workplace in Britain is being portrayed as traumatogenic

Dr Derek Summerfield

In his paper, published in the British Medical Journal, Dr Summerfield says 'relatively commonplace' events such as accidents; muggings, a difficult labour with a healthy baby and verbal sexual harrassment can now be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr Summerfield says British workers are increasingly turning to PTSD claims for carrying out their jobs and says there will be a price to be paid by both society and the NHS.

Workers claim stress

He said: "Increasingly, the workplace in Britain is being portrayed as traumatogenic even for those who are just doing their jobs: paramedics attending road accidents; police constables on duty at disasters and even employees caught up in what would have been described as a straightforward dispute for management.

"There are real implications for society and indeed for the NHS in these trends."

Dr Elizabeth Campbell, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Gart Navel Royal Hospital, Glasgow, agrees there are a number of misdiagnosed cases.

She said: "Most commonly, we see people who have had car accidents where another expert or their GP say they have PTSD, but when we ask them they don't have it.

"They just have one or two of the symptoms and are distressed, but the wrong term is being used."

"People in car accidents sometimes want to get that label because unless you have that you do not get the cash."

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See also:

20 Dec 00 | Medical notes
Anxiety disorder
20 Dec 00 | Medical notes
Post-traumatic stress disorder
21 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Ex-soldiers sue over stress
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