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Complaints against doctors at record high

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Complaints about doctors have reached a record high, the General Medical Council (GMC) said.

Since 2009, the number of complaints has soared - and in the last year alone there has been a 23% increase in the number of grievances lodged against doctors, figures suggest.

Last year 8,781 complaints were made compared to 7,153 in 2010, according to the GMC.

One in every 64 doctors is likely to be investigated by the regulator.

The highest number of accusations were made about about men and older doctors, according to the GMC report.

Psychiatrists, GPs and surgeons also attracted the highest level of complaints compared with other specialities.

Almost three quarters of all complaints made were about male doctors and 47% were made about GPs.

Grievances were mostly about treatment plans and investigation skills, but there was also a large number of objections about effective communication and respect for patients.

The number of allegations about doctors’ communicating skills have risen by 69% in the last year and complaints about lack of respect rose by 45%.

The GMC, which oversees doctors practising medicine in the UK, said that the rising of objections has increased around the globe and not just in the UK.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, stressed that the rise in complaints does not mean necessarily that medical standards are falling.

He said that a number of factors could contribute to the figure - including the fact that patients are now more willing to complain about discrepancies than they were in the past, patients have greater expectations of the doctors and within the profession there is less tolerance for poor practice.

“The most stark fact to emerge this year is the rising tide of complaints against doctors,” he said.

“But I think more complaints does not necessarily mean worse care. Indeed the evidence is actually about rising levels of satisfaction with medical care across the country.

“We have been trying to understand why this number is going up, and we have a whole series of reasons why it may be.

“Firstly, there is better monitoring of medical practice. Secondly, doctors certainly are more willing to speak out and less willing to tolerate behaviour than they were a generation ago.

“Patient expectations are changing and they are more willing to complain. Allied to this is the digital age in which more information is available for patients.

“In some cases it may mean that local systems of complaints are not working so people are coming to us to complain when they could be dealt with at local level.

“And the profile of the GMC is greater - when we have high profile cases we tend to see more complaints after that.”

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We must keep a careful eye on these complaints. A rise may partly be a result of patients rightly being more assertive in voicing dissatisfaction about their care, or it may be something more substantial.

“Employers and individual doctors need to analyse this data and look carefully at the cases where doctors have not met the standards patients expect, and what action they need to take when they fall short.

“Every patient should be given the necessary time to discuss healthcare concerns which can often be complex and upsetting. Worryingly, these figures suggest that this is not always the case.”

 

 

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Of course there are more complaints, successive Governments have constantly raised expectations of a rapidly growing population who feel they should have 24/7 care not just for emergencies, but for non urgent and routine problems. Daily Mail (and similar) readers especially are constantly bombarded with 'new treatments' and 'what to expect from your GP' articles; people are increasingly unable to cope with even the most minor problems; and the rising immigrant population foisted onto GP surgeries with little or no compensation for the huge increase of patient numbers, coupled with dwindling care provision, cuts to budgets and this dreadful "could'nt care less because we can go private" government leadership are all going to add to the confusion. I no of practices that are drowning in demands for appointments that are non urgent and annoyingly have many non attendances. I also no of many that are so swamped they are restricted to 5 min appointments as it is impossible to fit them all in!
    Also the ridiculous tick box QOF requirements just to get paid are taking an enormous toll on available clinical time.
    For example, why the stupid "health checks" for the over 45's? The people we need to catch are not coming forward which is what we expected - but the worried well who are quite capable of standing on a set of scales and working out whether they are fat or not. What a total waste of money!
    If the government continually increase work loads with no renumeration for extra staff, of course complaints are going up. I am sick of hearing from patients that doctors are "useless" because they dont own a magic wand! Money should be spent on a public campaign not to demand same day appointments for problems they have had 3 weeks/ooh appointments for non emergencies/the publics responsibility towards their own health and the NHS in general otherwise they are going to loose it; and a re-inforcement that we in the health service are human beings too that deserve respect and not a bunch of idiots purposely holding back treatment.

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