Private Business Intermediaries

Complaints about doctors at a record high

18/09/2012 | By Sharmila Chauhan
The GMC received a record 8,781 complaints from patients during 2011  This is a 23% increase (from 2010 when it was 7,153)  as compared to 2010 and illustrates the general pattern of increasing complaints to the GMC since 2007.

GPs, psychiatrists and surgeons were the most complained about. Similarly male doctors, and in particular older male doctors, were also far more likely to be complained about compared to women doctors. Doctors who were trained outside the UK and Europe also attracted less complaints compared to their UK and European counterparts.

The GMC state that this increase does not necessarily mean a decline in medical standards in the National Health Service. Whilst some of the complaints were serious and questioned the doctor’s ability to practice, the majority did not require an investigation of this and dealt with other issues. For instance, there was a rise in the complaints about the doctor's ability to communicate with patients had increased by 69% and those concerning a lack of respect rose by 45% compared to 2010.

The findings of this report as in line with the current trend of rising complaints across the NHS. At present however, there does not appear to be a decline in standards of practice. Increasing complaints are more likely due to the fact that patients have greater expectations, less tolerance, more access to procedures for complaining as well as the media focus on NHS standards. This increase in complaints may be part of the reason why more and more patients are making enquiries about private healthcare.

According to the GMC, the number of doctors falling seriously below the standards is relatively small. However, they are working to better understand what is driving the increase in complaints and will be introducing a series of measures to help both patients and doctors. Niall Dickson, Chief Executive, of the General Medical Council, said: 'We are committed to enhancing patient safety and improving the quality of medical care across the UK. Critical to this is the new system of regular checks for all doctors – known as revalidation – which we plan to introduce from the end of this year.'