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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Half of GPs practise defensively following GMC investigations, says medical defence group

Half of GPs have begun to practise more defensively after being investigated by the GMC or having a legal threat against them, according to a poll by the Medical Defence Union.

The poll of 138 MDU members who had been subject to a complaint found they had changed their practise following investigation, with some taking more notes.

Around 27% said they had considered leaving the profession, or had already left, as a result, and 10% said they had suffered health complications following a complaint or claim.

The most common complaint was a failure to diagnose, followed by surgical errors and a failure to refer.

The poll also revealed how long it took to resolve complaints, with 40% of respondents saying their case had taken one to two years, while 20% said it was between three and five years, and in 5% of cases it was more than five years.

One respondent wrote: ‘The fear of being sued never leaves you. Because of the experience I wouldn’t want any of my children to become doctors.’

Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU head of advisory services, said: ‘Claims and complaints are far more common nowadays than even five years ago and our survey provides evidence of the enormous stress they place on clinicians.’

‘Very few GMC complaints lead to a sanction on the doctor’s registration and in 2014 we successfully defended 80% of medical claims without a financial settlement. But that doesn’t make undergoing an investigation any easier for the individual involved.’

Readers' comments (10)

  • There must be some recourse for the costs involved if the case is unproven.

    I have been subject to a complaint and required medium term sickness when that happened. After all is said and done the case was more than unproven - but the GMC decided the complainant was fabricating much of the incident.

    There has still been a significant cost to the defence organisation (that we all pay)
    My personal premium has risen considerably.
    Then between my partners and I we paid for £70000 of locum cover. -- Much of that we recouped through locum insurance - but that is insurance that we pay for.

    Trying to recover that level of costs might actually help reduce the inappropriate cases AND reduce MDU fees.

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  • GMC - the old boys club that has never managed to ascertain why BME are far more likely to face sanctions, FTP panels, be struck off etc etc etc etc

    the GMC has commissioned many reports and studies and yet no cause has bee found......perhaps they will have their time

    in the meantime their remit has broadened significantly so that its anyone with a medical degree thats fair game; members of the public can refer directly to the GMC and the burden of proof has been reduced from the traditional "beyond reasonable doubt"

    we have seen many deaths--including suicides whilst doctors are under investigation.......i believe over 100 of our beloved colleagues have passed under these circumstances........ not to mention the probable hundreds of burnouts and breakdowns as a result of the dreaded FTP

    and yet as is usual for any tyrannical regime ..they obfuscate and engage in self preservation...............


    GMC im sure your time will come........and for now im out of your reach having relinquished my membership i can only sympathise with my colleagues who are under investigation

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  • This comment has been moderated

  • the current gmc does more harm to medical care than good..need to increase mediation and involve peer independent GPs at the practice level first before entering the clumsy destructive and legalistic stasi.

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  • The GMC isn't going anywhere soon. Their jobs site makes interesting reading. Very well remunerated jobs with lots of benefits including private healthcare and 'a relaxed and comfortable working environment'.

    There needs to be a a fully independent judge led judicial process not this. However, the GMC does what politicians and the establishment need it to do and keeps the medical profession on the back foot.

    The people who work for or feed off the GMC (a high proportion would go to legal professions in addition to those that write reports) know they are onto a good thing and will want to hang onto this cash cow as long as they possibly can.

    Perhaps if the BMA is finally waking up to its responsibilities as the medical profession falls apart it can taking on this truly appalling, inept and dysfunctional shambles of a regulator. Then again, if the medical profession falls apart the likes of the BMA and GMC can always move onto the other parties that will replace them and parasitise off of them,

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  • sadly nobody really cares.

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  • Read “Right Touch Regulation” by the PSA.
    This is a £500m/yr industry, employing people who’ve found their own way out of the firing line. Yet we still go over the top and take our chances on the battlefield every day.
    'Twas ever thus, I’m afraid.....

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  • For the umpteenth time - we all should practice extremely defensively.Do not manage uncertainty- remove it.The public does not want us to perform a gatekeeping role any more. Uncertainty in Primary Care is now a historically curiosity akin to leeches.

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  • I agree:
    the current gmc does more harm to medical care than good.Thirty years ago I entered General Practice.It was enjoyable and easy to practice.As time went on new rules and regulation came First you have to be on perforners list with all those documents you should produce,then as aresult of Shipman Incident came the appraisal and revalidation.When the public read about this and how the GMC and CCG are scrutinising doctors in this way then naturally they are encoureged to sue,they will say look the government does not trust them why should we.

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  • I agree with 5:33pm Nov 24th. I was subject to a malicious complaint that was unfounded. Despite the life threatening nature of the hearing for me - I observed it to be a rigorous process that flushed out an unreliable patient and an incompetent expert IT witness. It did seem cumbersome though.
    The financial, personal, and professional damage is incalculable. I didn't have any ill-health issues from it. The £70,000 cost to the above does not include the cost of GMC, Prosecution and defence teams etc... so the real cost is much greater...£100,000+ per case.
    In cases like this, the GP should have the right to sue for defamation and damages. Given that it is the GMC that actually instructs the prosecution at MTS, that will be hard to achieve. On that basis GMC reform is mandatory.

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  • DEAR GOOD OLD GMC: What can we say? Paid assassin?
    How about the anonymous complaints?
    I spent from 2007 to 2013 from PCT to GMC investigations about an anonymous complaint of drink driving accident in Spain among others already dealt at PCT level with no fault attributed and lo behold non patient matters. About this anonymous complaint, no phone log/no paper trail only a PCT personnel saying she had received the complaint of drink driving offense in Spain. For God's sake in Spain if that happens they put you in pound first then ask questions later.
    Single handed GP when everyone was concentrating on getting on with all new changes, I was battling with PCT meddling wanting to shut down my practice but couldn't find any excuses (low spending, good pt. satisfaction) so used underhand tactics.
    First, PCT arrived at surgery unannounced, waved the papers at me - not allowed to see the papers, no copy of complaint given to me and not allowed time to get any advice. When sent packing, same complaint resurfaced in 2013, NHS England Supposedly investigated on GMC be half, on LMC advice undergone drug and mental health assessment (just to show that was not alcoholic and importantly not "MENTAL" to look after practice) then again 2014/15 GMC started digging in again tried looking for the non-existing needle in haystack of drink driving.
    But I had to tell GMC they can search until the cows come home and will find nothing still with GMC I wrote to GMC that 'being foreigner and female I had cat in hell chance being found innocent' but I DON'T BLOODY DRINK...
    There is more to GMC/defence organisations and BMA but that is for the next time.

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