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GP defence organisation warns of ‘concerning trend’ of online complaints

A GP defence organisation has seen a four-fold increase in requests for advice from doctors criticised by patients online in the past five years.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) warned this showed a ‘concerning trend’ for patients to take to social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube – as well as NHS Choices – to complain about doctors.

In the past, the MDU’s press office sometimes helped with advice on how to handle print media enquiries, but now doctors are more likely than ever to ask for advice after being singled out on social media.

MDU medico-legal adviser Dr Richenda Tisdale said: ‘In 2010, the MDU press office had requests from just two members for advice on dealing with complaints on social media. In the first quarter of 2014 we have already had requests for help from eight members. Although the figures are not huge, they have increased dramatically and reveal an upward trend of patients taking their concerns to social media as well as or – more worringly – instead of following the formal methods of making a complaint.

‘This is often unexpected by the doctors and so increasingly they are calling on the services of the MDU press office for advice and assistance. Of course, patients are entitled to express their dissatisfaction online but it is a concerning trend. If, for example, the doctor never finds out that a patient has posted negative comments, they will be unable to address and resolve them.’

The number of complaints against doctors via traditional channels has also been on the rise, with the GMC reporting an 18% rise in received complaints in 2012.