Complaints against doctors double since 2007
Figures released by the General Medical Council (GMC) have revealed that the number of complaints against doctors has more than doubled in the past six years, from just below 4,000 in 2007 to over 8,100 in 2012.
Most of the complaints came from patients, or their friends or relatives, with the number of complaints made by the general public increasing by 87% to 5,014 between 2007 and 2012. There was also a significant rise in the number of reports received from doctors’ employers or colleagues calling their fitness to practise into question. About a third of the complaints led to a full investigation by the regulator.
The GMC says that the total number of complaints is small compared to the number of interactions between doctors and patients and that the figures did not indicate a fall in standards but merely reflect an increase in expectations among patients and a rise in the number of doctors willing to speak out about colleagues.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said “The report issued by the GMC today comes as absolutely no surprise to us at all. Patients frequently contact our Helpline to ask for advice on raising concerns about their medical care.
“Many tell us that they have previously raised a concern with their GP and have been removed from their doctor’s list as a result. Other patients tell us that they have heard of others who have been removed from the list and as a result feel uncomfortable raising a concern directly with their GP.
“The simple fact of the matter is that the complaints system, whether in hospitals or GP practices, does not work in the interest of patients, and as a result it hinders the ability of the NHS to listen and learn. This has to change.”