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Revealed: Only one anonymous complaint has led to GMC action in two years

EXCLUSIVE Only one anonymous GMC complaint has led to a sanction imposed on a doctor in the past two years, Pulse can reveal.

Data provided by the GMC showed that out of 438 anonymous complaints made between 2013 and 2015, 97 were investigated but only one resulted in a sanction.

The BMA said the findings raised serious concern about the ‘undue weight’ given to anonymous complaints, but the GMC told Pulse it was not planning any changes to its processes.

It comes as recent figures published by the GMC showed that the proportion of all investigations which have led to no action is growing, from 44% in 2013 to 48% in 2014.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter told Pulse that the GMC needed to ‘learn’ from the finding.

He said: ’Complaints procedures need to be efficient and fair. At present, doctors who are the subject of a GMC investigation can be left in limbo for months, or even years, before an outcome is reached. The stress that this causes to those affected can have life-changing effects.

‘While doctors always want to learn from clinical mistakes, it’s also important that the GMC learns from the way its systems operate. It is clear from these figures that anonymous complaints seem to be given undue weight in the complaints process.’

But GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said it would be ’wrong to ignore a complaint because it is anonymous’.

He said: ‘Of course it is always best when a complainant tells us who they are and we accept that the vast majority of anonymous complaints do not result in any action and some, though by no means all, may be malicious.

‘But it would be wrong to ignore a complaint because it is anonymous – our first duty is to protect patients and there may be a good reason why a complainant does not wish to reveal their identity, not least where they may fear some form of reprisal.’

The news comes as the GMC has pledged to make its fitness-to-practise process more compassionate, with the appointment of Professor Louis Appleby as an independent expert to look at how vulnerable doctors can be better supported through the process.

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Readers' comments (37)

  • Anybody can make a complaint and especially if anonymous, there is no downside.
    If there is evidence that complaints are malicious then there should be legal recourse against the complainant who might face legal action for wasting GMC time and libellous comments.
    GPs seem to be exempt from the usual protections of the law but this itself should be legally challenged

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  • The GMC does not care about doctors, it freely admits to that. "our main concern is protecting patients mmmehh doctors are protected elsewhere mmmeeehhh "

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  • when an organisation starts with treating its paying members as guilty until proven innocent and refuses to learn anything from the numerous deaths of its members under this false assumption, can we expect it to learn from simple facts like this? we are all wasting our breath. Doctors have no rights in the UK. Retire or emigrate

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  • But GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said it would be ’wrong to ignore a complaint because it is anonymous’.

    errrr - not getting the point as usual. How much longer can this misguided man stay in office?

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  • I am lucky that no sanctions imposed on me or the fact is GMC could not impose any sanctions
    Anonymous complaint of drink driving was made to Salford PCT in 2008 and was investigated three times BY PCT in 2008, then in 2013 NHS England investigated on be half of GMC and then again by GMC in 2014.
    In 2008 PCT medical director at the time and admin officer barged in my room there was no paperwork, no phone log and I was not given any chance to get any legal advice.
    GMC chief executive says ’wrong to ignore a complaint because it is anonymous’. But it is wrong to hound the doctors- in other words stop bullying.
    what is his justification in investigating the same complaint three times? NHSE Dr x commented he could not understand why GMC was investigating again. But then he said it might be applying different criteria- What CRITERIA Mr Dickson?
    The joke is I Hardly drink. I think I should take up drinking now due to the stress caused by GMC hounding
    and if all three investigators would have applied some common sense - in Spain if you are caught drink driving, Spanish Police put you in pound first and ask questions later.
    I am my GP's patient- what about my protection?
    GMC is above the law.

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  • "The report into the Bristol baby debacle spoke, eloquently, to the heart of the issue:

    "The culture of blame is a major barrier to... openness. The system of clinical negligence is part of this culture of blame. It should be abolished. It should be replaced by effective systems for identifying, analysing, learning from and preventing errors and other sentinel events."

    The GMC and the NMC have sprawled themselves across the landscape of healthcare. We are no safer. They have forgotten we really only want them to keep a register of who is who. The employer can do the rest. Without changing how the professions are regulated, nothing will change."

    From Roy Lilley's blog this morning.

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  • 11:19 Doctors have no rights in the UK. Retire or emigrate?
    why should the doctors forced to retire or emigrate?

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  • 11:19 Doctors have no rights in the UK. Retire or emigrate?
    why should the doctors forced to retire or emigrate?

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  • why have GMC not replies to all anonymous comment against GMC when a dr committed suicide??
    in the name of protecting patient gmc have become tyrant. de-centralise conduct committees . local ccg can do this job cheaper and for sure better.

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