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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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