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Break-down in patient communication behind a third of allegations about GPs, show GMC figures

GPs are complained about by the general public more than other doctors, with a third of those originating from a specific allegation linked with a breakdown in patient communication, show official GMC figures.

The GMC’s third annual State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK report found GPs had a 17% chance of receiving a complaint compared to 11% for specialists and 4% for other doctors.

But they were at a lower risk of having a complaint investigated. Although GPs accounted for nearly half (46%) of all complaints, they accounted for only 35% of all sanctions or warnings issued.

The number of complaints against doctors has been growing since 2007, a trend which continued last year. The GMC received 8,109 complaints last year - up 24% since 2011 and a rise of over 100% since 2007.

The report found that male doctors were around twice as likely as female doctors to be complained about with 22% of male GPs receiving a complaint compared with just 11% of female GPs between 2007 and 2012.

The proportion of doctors over 50 years old who received a complaint was higher than for doctors aged 30–50 years and the report said that this was ‘particularly true for GPs.’

International medical graduates also received a higher proportion of complaints than UK or EEA graduates and again this was likely to be particularly true for GPs where 25% of international medical graduates received a complaint compared with only 15% of UK graduates and 17% of EEA graduates.

The report says: ‘GPs received more complaints during 2007-12 than specialists or other doctors, accounting for 46% of all complaints. This is not surprising, given the large number of interactions between GPs and their patients - there were 303.9 million GP consultations in England between 2008 and 2009.’

It added: ‘Of the complaints we receive about GPs that have an assigned allegation, 29% were linked to their communication with patients. GPs may therefore need more support, guidance or resources to ensure that their engagement with patients is appropriate.’

The GMC report also found that only 1% of all cases merited a sanction or warning but that for male international and EEA qualified GPs aged between 30 to 50 years that chance was doubled.

Commenting on the report GMC chair Professor Sir Peter Rubin said: ‘Overall the standard of care that patients receive in the UK is good and doctors continue to deserve the trust and respect of the public.’

Readers' comments (18)

  • in respect of the last post..i think a vexatious and utterly self-centred and totally ludicrous complaint like that should be countered with a fine for wasting nhs time.(or preferably commital to an asylum)

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  • i think gp's do incredibly well to have such a low rate of complaints given the overwhelming pile of ignorant rubbish in the media about medicine and doctors combined with successive administrations openly stoking up demand without resourcing a system which is chronically under doctored...fault lies with government and media not gps..we all deserve praise for such a remarkably good record (if put in its proper context)

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  • There are defects in many places when it comes to how legitimate complaints are addressed as well as those of no merit. People do die because when good doctor is removed from practice and particularly in shortage specialties there is no immediate replacement not even from abroad. Damage caused is incalculable to doctors, to patients and to the tax payer.

    I could write to Health Select Committee with recommendations for practical improvements in complaints handling right from the start, but please, do criticize my suggestions now so I can improve it.

    Compliments area also needs commenting on. What defects do you see in it going via email to your permanent personal email? Should compliments always have a handwritten signature, for example.

    Note, that there is media interest in this here and abroad for obvious reasons.

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  • Fighting fire with fire?

    Yes, one can do it literally as described here how fire fighters do it by detonating dynamite:

    When you try to set up limits to people who do not like it, yes, they can get more outrageous. This is what happens when you confront the bullies. But you have to outlast them. Usually, they have inferior ability to yours.

    GMC is not very good at dealing with bullies, especially if they are institutional bullies and are adapt in setting complaints in such a way to fit GMC investigation criteria.

    However, Dr Ewa Michalak and her husband have shown the world how to do it.

    In cases of medical mobbing the victim can be completely immobilized by the scale of the attack. It is best to set limits immediately and stick to them. Sham peer reviews do occur at medical regulator.

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    Many doctors have died during GMC investigations. More than 1300 people have signed the petition for confidential enquiry into those deaths. Please, sign:

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  • "International medical graduates also received a higher proportion of complaints than UK or EEA graduates"

    Presumable this can only be explained by the presence of racial bias and discrimination on the part of the complainants? It can have nothing to do with the calibre of the GP - we've already sorted out that issue in relation to the CSA.

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  • i find it hard to be lave that the g.m.c is here to help victim like me that a doctor can get away with putting in the wrong stent in my heart and i have dun everything by the book that the law but just been told off the g.m.c that doctor got away with nothing dun to him but im left with living life on death row they still will not show me the post surgeon report that tell you they have something to hide my fight will go on till i get justices

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  • I recently published an article about the use of external health mediation to resolve patient complaints. This process can save time, energy and costs and can be a very helpful intervention for both NHS staff and complainants. Please see link below.

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