Nearly all GPs have had a complaint lodged against them at some point during their career, a Medical Defence Union (MDU) survey has found.
The survey of doctors involved almost 300 GPs, of which 97% reported receiving a patient complaint, with the most common reasons being increased waiting times for treatments, delays in accessing screenings and tests, communication issues and online consultations.
The medical indemnity provider said the findings support previous research which found that 77% of GPs were concerned about facing a complaint related to the pandemic, and warned it could ultimately ‘push many doctors to breaking point’ and out of the profession.
The survey found that, for GPs:
- Nearly half of complaints (49%) were made within the last five years
- 46% of complaints were related to an alleged delayed or missed diagnosis, while 19% and 17% focused on an alleged delayed referral and breakdown of communication, respectively
- 40% of complaints were resolved locally within the individual’s own clinical team
- 70% said the complaint had an impact on their professional life while 65% said it had also impacted their personal lives
- 80% contacted their medico-defence organisation for support, 76% and 51% respectively also turned to colleagues and family members
Looking more broadly at all doctors, the survey found that current trainee doctors received more complaints over the last year (38%) than either GPs or consultants – 20% and 21% respectively.
GPs were least likely to face complaints due to treatment complications, with only 5% reporting this, compared to 30% for consultants and 13% for trainee doctors, according to the survey.
MDU head of advisory services Dr Caroline Fryar said: ‘While all doctors are likely to face a complaint at some point in their career, the pandemic may result in an influx of patient complaints resulting from issues such as delays in diagnosis, treatment and referrals.’
She added that many complaints could become claims for compensation in the years to come, which is ‘worrying’ for doctors.
‘The stress of dealing with complaints and claims far into the future could push many doctors to breaking point. It could lead to an exodus of healthcare professionals at a time when the NHS will be depending on experienced staff to get through the backlog of cases,’ she said.
Another MDU survey in December found that three quarters of GPs aim to continue using remote working practices ‘frequently’ after the Covid-19 pandemic ends.