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GMC warns GPs hit by huge rise in petty complaints

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: Years of GP-bashing stories in the national media have been blamed for a huge rise in the number of frivolous complaints bombarding the GMC.

Pulse has obtained the latest set of figures on investigations into complaints against GPs.

The figures show the number of cases being closed because they are regarded as too minor to merit GMC involvement has shot up from 485 in 2007, to 717 in 2009, while the number of serious complaints has remained relatively static.

A spokesperson for the GMC said it was unclear exactly why there had been such a jump in the number of so-called ‘closed cases', but said: ‘It could be that these sort of complaints are being misdirected. The GMC is not the right place for these complaints, which can even be about the state of a car park.'

Dr Krishna Korlipara, a GP in Bolton, Lancashire, and a council member of the GMC for 25 years, said: ‘There has been a rise in frivolous complaints and I think this has been driven by anti-GP stories in newspapers.

‘More and more complaints are going to the GMC which have no place there. For people to complain about the state of a car park is just ridiculous.

‘Sadly the more time the GMC has to waste dealing with these frivolous complaints, the more delay will be caused to serious complaints.'

The GMC brought in rules last year allowing it to dismiss complaints on the grounds that an allegation against a GP was vexatious, aiming to ‘reduce to an absolute minimum the risk of expert witnesses being vexed by unmeritorious complaints.'

However, the spokesperson said it had not as yet used the new powers.

The latest figures also confirm previous Pulse reports of a big increase in the number of GPs being referred to fitness-to-practise hearings following a GMC switch to a civil standard rather than the criminal standard of proof.

Between 2007 and 2008, when the civil standard came in, the number of GPs referred to hearings rose from 75 to 125, a rise of 66%. The figure fell slightly to 121 in 2009.

Between 2007 and 2008 there was also a big rise in the number of GPs who had their licenses erased by the GMC, with a much smaller rise between 2008 and 2009.

The figures also show a sharp increase in the number of GPs who underwent fitness-to-practise hearings but ended up with no mark on their record.

Dr Krishna Korlipara