Complaints about doctors reach record high

 

Complaints about doctors have reached a record high, the General Medical Council (GMC) said.

Since 2009, the number of complaints has soared - and in the last year alone there has been a 23% increase in the number of grievances lodged against doctors, figures suggest.

Last year 8,781 complaints were made compared to 7,153 in 2010, according to the GMC.

One in every 64 doctors is likely to be investigated by the regulator.

The highest number of accusations were made about about men and older doctors, according to the GMC report.

Psychiatrists, GPs and surgeons also attracted the highest level of complaints compared with other specialities.

Almost three quarters of all complaints made were about male doctors and 47% were made about GPs.

Grievances were mostly about treatment plans and investigation skills, but there was also a large number of objections about effective communication and respect for patients.

The number of allegations about doctors' communicating skills have risen by 69% in the last year and complaints about lack of respect rose by 45%.

The GMC, which oversees doctors practising medicine in the UK, said that the rising of objections has increased around the globe and not just in the UK.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, stressed that the rise in complaints does not mean necessarily that medical standards are falling.

He said that a number of factors could contribute to the figure - including the fact that patients are now more willing to complain about discrepancies than they were in the past, patients have greater expectations of the doctors and within the profession there is less tolerance for poor practice.

"The most stark fact to emerge this year is the rising tide of complaints against doctors," he said.

"But I think more complaints does not necessarily mean worse care. Indeed the evidence is actually about rising levels of satisfaction with medical care across the country.

"We have been trying to understand why this number is going up, and we have a whole series of reasons why it may be.

"Firstly, there is better monitoring of medical practice. Secondly, doctors certainly are more willing to speak out and less willing to tolerate behaviour than they were a generation ago.

"Patient expectations are changing and they are more willing to complain. Allied to this is the digital age in which more information is available for patients.

"In some cases it may mean that local systems of complaints are not working so people are coming to us to complain when they could be dealt with at local level.

"And the profile of the GMC is greater - when we have high profile cases we tend to see more complaints after that."

He said that the revalidation process - which will see doctors skills reassessed every year to ensure they are fit to practise - could also lead to a rise in the number of complaints.

The GMC said it was introducing a series of measures to deal with the rising number of complaints including an induction programme for doctors who are new to the medical register, new guides on good medical practice for both doctors and patients and a new helpline for doctors.

Mr Dickson added: "We are investing more in this area and we are rolling out a package of measures both to protect patients and provide greater support for doctors during the course of their careers.

"While we do need to develop a better understanding of why complaints to us are rising, we do not believe it reflects falling standards of medical practice.

"Every day there are millions of interactions between doctors and patients and all the evidence suggests that public trust and confidence in the UK's doctors remains extremely high."

The report, titled State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK, also shows that the number of female doctors registered to work has reached its highest level - with more than 100,000 registered to practice in the UK.

Dr Mark Porter, chair of council at the British Medical Association (BMA), said: "It is a good thing that patients feel more empowered to raise their concerns, but it is important that there is further research to find out why there has been an increase and the nature of the complaints being made.

"Even though medical standards remain high and the number of complaints is very small, compared to the millions of consultations every year, we should always strive to find ways of improving the quality of care.

"It is essential that the new system of checking doctors' fitness to practice, known as revalidation, does protect patients while also being fair to doctors."

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "We must keep a careful eye on these complaints. A rise may partly be a result of patients rightly being more assertive in voicing dissatisfaction about their care, or it may be something more substantial.

"Employers and individual doctors need to analyse this data and look carefully at the cases where doctors have not met the standards patients expect, and what action they need to take when they fall short.

"Every patient should be given the necessary time to discuss healthcare concerns which can often be complex and upsetting. Worryingly, these figures suggest that this is not always the case."

PA

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little