MALE medical students are more likely than females to face complaints about their conduct, a new General Medical Council report reveals.
Complaints varied from low level concerns such as lateness for lectures or clinical placements to more serious issues such as turning up to lectures drunk, verbally abusing a fellow student, plagiarism or cheating in exams.
The GMC admitted these may initially seem minor issues but explained they could indicate future problems: “If [these issues] begin to form a pattern of behaviour, they may raise questions about the professionalism of the individual and whether they will be able to meet the standards required of them as they enter the profession.”
They added: “In some cases at least it seems possible that there may be a link between behaviour (and performance) at medical school and subsequent difficulties in practice.”
The findings were revealed in the new GMC report The state of medical education and practice in the UK 2012. It includes analysis on patterns in allegations at different stages in doctors’ careers.
The report went on to say that medical school data on fitness to practise issues revealed “strong differences between men and women”. While men were more likely to have conduct issues, complaints about female students were more likely to relate to issues about their health.
However the report emphasised that the analysis was based on “snapshot data” from a particular point in time. It went on to say that only a very small proportion of undergraduates are subject to fitness to practise complaints – in 2011 there were 381 complaints in a medical student population of 41,268.
Overall, research showed younger doctors received fewer complaints than older doctors. Of all complaints they did receive, newly qualified doctors were proportionally more likely to be investigated about probity than any other issues. This was particularly pronounced in doctors in their first year out of medical school, the report added. Probity accounted for more than 60 per cent of allegations about this group of doctors compared to an average for all doctors of 20 per cent.
Allegations about probity included having a criminal conviction or caution, failing to notify the GMC of a charge or offence, and conduct. From 2007 to 2011 there were 590 allegations of a delay or failure to inform the GMC of an offence. The regulator said the figures highlight the need for medical schools to ensure trainees have a good understanding of ethical guidance and of the required standards of professionalism.
Figures also show that newly qualified doctors are less likely to face complaints about clinical care issues as they are more likely to be closely supervised at this point in their careers.