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GP defence organisation warns of 'concerning trend' of online complaints

A GP defence organisation has seen a four-fold increase in requests for advice from doctors criticised by patients online in the past five years.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) warned this showed a ‘concerning trend’ for patients to take to social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube – as well as NHS Choices – to complain about doctors.

In the past, the MDU’s press office sometimes helped with advice on how to handle print media enquiries, but now doctors are more likely than ever to ask for advice after being singled out on social media.

MDU medico-legal adviser Dr Richenda Tisdale said: ‘In 2010, the MDU press office had requests from just two members for advice on dealing with complaints on social media. In the first quarter of 2014 we have already had requests for help from eight members. Although the figures are not huge, they have increased dramatically and reveal an upward trend of patients taking their concerns to social media as well as or – more worringly – instead of following the formal methods of making a complaint.

‘This is often unexpected by the doctors and so increasingly they are calling on the services of the MDU press office for advice and assistance. Of course, patients are entitled to express their dissatisfaction online but it is a concerning trend. If, for example, the doctor never finds out that a patient has posted negative comments, they will be unable to address and resolve them.’

The number of complaints against doctors via traditional channels has also been on the rise, with the GMC reporting an 18% rise in received complaints in 2012.

Readers' comments (7)

  • SInce when does making libellous comments about someone else on-line constitute "patient rights"??
    There is a finite limit to the "rights" that any citizen in society has, fact not fiction.
    Are doctors immune from protection from libel laws?? No.

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    Doctors on occasions may seek to make a claim for damages by way of a defamation claim, for libel (written word) or slander (spoken word), where an employer, organisation, newspaper or other individual person has made damaging comments about them. A claim should be brought within twelve months of any comments complained about

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  • I would like to see it routine that all cases are countered by a service as in 3:34. I am not sure that most GPs would think it is worth the trouble.

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  • There is plenty of online posting about GPs. I hear from my wife who is part of a local online group on FB, and it incenses me with some of the comments by some parents - be demanding, don't take word of GP, demand second opinions/referrals, GPs pointless etc. It certainly also gives insights into the mentality of people, and there seem to be a few who are unfortunately driving their children towards being hypochondriacs!

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  • The whole of NHS and its agenda is causing distress to many wonder most are planning to leave and emigrate. Good luck to pts.

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  • I agree

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  • Sometimes comments about anyone says more about the write than the person they are written about!

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