The number of doctors referred to the GMC by medical directors and other public bodies doubled between 2007 and 2010 suggesting that the NHS is now more willing and determined to identify and deal with poor practice among doctors.
These are the findings reported in new research carried out by the GMC among around 100 medical directors across the four countries. They were asked to explain why more doctors than ever are now being referred to the GMC.
The results suggest that the NHS has developed better systems for monitoring doctors' performance and also a greater awareness of and commitment to high professional standards.
A total of 1,395 doctors were referred to the GMC by medical directors and other public bodies in 2010 – one in five of all complaints to the GMC. The rise in referrals among doctors is matched in other professions, with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the NHS Information Centre both reporting a significant rise in complaints.
In addition to the research the GMC has announced the launch of a new liaison service to support medical directors in dealing with concerns over doctors. From January next year there will be dedicated GMC advisers across the UK to support local medical directors.
Niall Dickson, the Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said: "More complaints about doctors does not necessarily mean standards are slipping; it could be a sign that the systems to identify problems are improving. Our research certainly suggests that employers are giving priority to detecting and dealing with concerns and that has to be welcome.
"In addition, rather than keeping quiet about problems, doctors are more likely to speak up when they see anything that could pose a risk to patient safety. And that is exactly as it should be. There is no cause for complacency and we know there is more to do in this area, but the system is becoming more open and we have come a long way from the idea of medicine as an 'old boys' club".