Legal advice given to doctors in last year rose by 15% on 2021, experts said, with GPs feeling the pressure ‘most intensely’.
The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) published its annual report last week which aimed to show the lived experience of doctors working in the NHS through ‘one of its toughest years’.
The rise in advice given by its experts showed the increasingly complex challenges faced by members due to the pressure of patients’ expectations, according to the MDO.
Head of medical at MDDUS Dr Naeem Nazem said this pressure ‘was felt most intensely by GPs’ who often needed someone to listen to their personal experience of stress as well as medico-legal advice.
The report listed challenges faced by the NHS, and focussed on general practice which it said had changed rapidly, ‘more out of necessity than design due to the backlog of patient needs not addressed during the pandemic’.
It also mentioned ‘anti-doctor’ sentiment as a key challenge, with some members having contacted the organisation ‘in distress after experiencing abusive and angry attacks’.
Last year, a survey by the MDDUS revealed that three in four GPs have reported facing increasing patient abuse in 2021.
Dr Nazem said: ‘The number of hours of advice we gave by phone in 2022 increased because the issues our members needed support with became more complex.
‘Some of this was due to the changes in healthcare and the complexities of working under post-pandemic restrictions.
‘Much more so, this was driven by the pressure of patients’ expectations of the health service. It gives me no pleasure to say that this was greatly influenced by a negative – and sometimes toxic – anti-doctor agenda in sections of the media.
‘The pressure was felt most intensely by GPs who often needed someone to listen, and understand, their experiences of stress and burnout in addition to obtaining expert medico-legal advice.’
The report also said it was ‘deeply frustrating’ that policy-makers are not taking action to ‘calm the ill-founded anti-doctor sentiment in some quarters of the media’.
In 2022, the medical team spent 2182 hours delivering medico-legal advice by telephone, which was a 15% increase on 2021 when 1892 hours of advice were given.
The total number of cases handled by the MDDUS was 6915, with 184 of these relating to the GMC.
Earlier this year, a survey carried out by the organisation found that over one in five (22%) of young GPs had experienced racism in the workplace.
Earlier this month, the BMA declared a no-confidence vote in the GMC as well as the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).