Complaints Against Doctors Reach Record High


More patients complained about their treatment by UK doctors last year than ever before, according to the latest numbers from the GMC.

The number of complaints increased by 23% from 7,153 in 2010 to 8,781 in 2011 – continuing a pattern which has been rising since 2007. It means the likelihood that the GMC will investigate a doctor increased from one in every 68 to one in 64.

“While we do need to develop a better understanding of why complaints to us are rising, we do not believe it reflects falling standards of medical practice,” said Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council.

“Every day there are millions of interactions between doctors and patients and all the evidence suggests that public trust and confidence in the UK’s doctors remains extremely high.”

Last year the names of 65 doctors were erased from the medical register and a further 93 suspended. Among the complaints there was a significant rise in concerns about how doctors interacted with their patients – allegations about communication increased by 69% and lack of respect rose by 45%.

Organisations where junior doctors reported below average satisfaction with clinical supervision also had a higher proportion of complaints to the GMC.

GPs, psychiatrists and surgeons attracted the highest rates of complaints. Men, and in particular older male doctors, were also far more likely to be the subject of complaints than women.

Doctors trained outside the UK and Europe were less likely to be complained about in middle age but more likely to face allegations when they were older.

The GMC is introducing a series of measures to deal with the rise in complaints including a 15-strong team of Employer Liaison Advisors, a confidential helpline for doctors so they can raise patient safety concerns and a pilot for a national induction programme for doctors new to the register.