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Dr Mohammed Ahmed's career and marriage were almost ended as a result of a single, unfounded complaint which took four years to resolve.

Dr Ahmed said his life was 'turned upside down', forcing him to sell his singlehanded practice in Northumberland.

The complaint centred on a missed diagnosis of bowel

cancer in a patient who presented with dysuria.

The patient complained after his urine result showed cells of unknown origin, which he believed should have been picked up as an indication of the cancer.

Dr Ahmed said the difficulties started as soon as the complaint was made because practice and PCT staff who initially dealt with it did not understand the case.

He said: 'The complaints managers are usually practice managers or ancilliary staff who are not trained in medical matters ­ they don't know what is normal and what is abnormal. They can explode a bomb under a doctor.'

A panel of GP clinical assessors then reviewed his case. They referred it to the health authority, indicating they thought Dr Ahmed was at fault, and the authority passed it to the GMC.

Four years after the initial complaint was made, the GMC cleared Dr Ahmed.

After his exoneration, Dr Ahmed said he was forced to quit his practice for the sake of his family. 'The strain was so big,' he said. 'I would get irritable. Family life was affected. My wife said if I had another complaint life wouldn't be easy. I had no intention of retiring, but my wife was pressing me to do so without any black spots on my career.'

Dr Ahmed, who now works as a locum in London, said the threat of complaints was also undermining efforts to recruit young GPs. He said: 'My daughter is a hospital doctor. She doesn't want to go into general practice after the strain she has seen me go through.'

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