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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.’