A whistle-blowing hotline set up to encourage doctors to raise concerns about patient safety has led to 12 "very serious" investigations being launched in just ten weeks.

The General Medical Council helpline has had 187 calls, mainly from doctors but also from members of the public.

The 12 "very serious" allegations relate to complaints that a doctor may not be fit to practise and that there might be a risk to patient safety.

So far 26 – one in seven of those phoned in – was considered serious enough for the GMC to look into. On top of the 12, four were less serious inquiries that could justify action by the regulator if they were part of a wider pattern of concern about a doctor.

All doctors in the country were sent new guidance from the GMC last spring, reiterating that they had a professional duty to act to protect patients' interests.

The confidential hotline was meant to allow doctors to raise serious concerns about patient safety if they felt unable to do so locally, for example if they had worries about a senior colleague. Members of the public are also able to call it. The number is 0161 923 6399.