Complaints made against doctors are increasing
16th October 2013
doctorsNew figures indicate that the number of complaints being made against doctors by patients, and even by their fellow colleagues, is on the increase. Data from the General Medical Council (GMC) show that complaints against doctors has actually more than doubled in the space of five years. Back in 2007 there were just under 4,000 complaints recorded. However, by 2012 this had soared to 8,109. The figure of 8,109 had increased by 24% on the previous year (2011) and represents a staggering 104% rise from 2007’s data. It was found that the majority of complaints were made by the doctors’ patients, or friends and family the patient, and between 2007 and 2012 the overall number of complaints emanating from members of the public increased by 87% to 5,014. Alarmingly though, a significant amount of complaints are being made by doctors’ colleagues and employers, with their fitness to practice being brought to question. The GMC attempted to defend the figures and put the rise down to patients having a much higher expectation of doctors compared to previous times, and more doctors now willing to voice their concerns about colleagues if they disagree with something. The report stated: “These patterns should be seen in the context of increasing patient expectations and demand for healthcare – one calculation suggests that there has been a 28 per cent increase since 2001.” Overall, over half of the total complaints related to poor clinical care, or both poor clinical care and how the doctor communicated with their patient. Typically it was found that when one doctor would complain about another, their unhappiness was due to a colleague’s criminal conviction or because of a conflict of interest. In terms of which group were the most frequent complainers from the public, those between the ages 46 and 60 were most likely to complain, and GPs more than other doctors were more commonly the subject of their ire. Male doctors received twice as many complaints than their female counterparts, with over a fifth of male GPs receiving at least one complaint between 2007 and 2013. Professor Sir Peter Rubin, chair of the GMC, commented: “Overall the standard of care that patients receive in the UK is good and doctors continue to deserve the trust and respect of the public. The GMC has an important role to play in protecting patients and ensuring that doctors practice to the highest possible standard. Complaints from members of the public, doctors and other professionals are invaluable in helping us to do this. Complaints also give the health service a chance to reflect and improve the care that patients receive. However what our report shows is that some patients don’t know where to go to raise a concern about their treatment and more needs to be done to help them raise issues. Making a complaint about a doctor can be stressful and it is important that concerns are raised with the right organisation so patients are not passed from pillar to post.”