THE number of complaints made about doctors by doctors has almost doubled in four years, according to a new report from the General Medical Council.
The figure increased by 95 per cent, from 654 in 2010 to 1,277 in 2014. These were most often about issues of criminality or professional performance.
Overall, the total number of complaints rose by 54 per cent over the same period, but this trend has slowed sharply in the past two years, rising by only five per cent in 2013 and falling by two per cent in 2014.
The statistics emerged in the GMC’s fifth annual report, The state of medical education and practice in the UK 2015 (SoMEP).
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the increase in referrals from doctors was “one of the great unsung and welcome changes in culture.”
He said: “There was a time when some doctors put professional loyalty above patient safety but that is increasingly rare. The modern profession is much more willing to raise concerns not just with us but importantly at local level. We should all be doing what we can to support this.”
The SoMEP report showed that men were significantly more likely to face investigations than women, especially in cases of criminality. Overall, 75 per cent of GMC investigations, and 82 per cent of criminality investigations were about men.
Doctors who graduated outside the UK were also more likely to be investigated by the regulator (59 per 1,000 doctors) compared to UK graduates (39 per 1,000). This translated into a higher proportion of investigations of black and minority ethnic (BME) non-UK graduates (55 per 1,000). BME UK graduates were also more likely to be investigated than white UK graduates (41 per 1,000 compared to 35 per 1,000 respectively).
Despite the high figures, the report showed the number of complaints closed with no further action more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, from 884 to 1,952. Similarly, the number of complaints closed with a sanction (compared to those closed without a sanction) fell by seven per cent from 512 in 2010 to 479 in 2014.
Other findings in the report show the most common areas that doctors seek advice on from the GMC are prescribing, confidentiality, the impact of new technology, and end of life care.
Analysis of the most serious investigations carried out by the regulator – those resulting in suspension or erasure from the register – found that about half related to issues of dishonesty. Other themes include inappropriate behaviour and relationships both with patients and in the workplace.
Access the full report on the GMC website