A report released by the General Medical Council (GMC) has found that doctors reported more concerns about their colleagues in 2012.
According to the GMC, this reveals a “welcome change” of culture in the medical profession, with more doctors willing to raise concerns about poor medical practice.
Since 2007 the number of complaints against doctors has been growing. The GMC received 8,109 complaints last year – up 24% since 2011 and a rise of over 100% since 2007.
The GMC believes hat higher patient expectations for care and a greater willingness to raise concerns could account for the rise.
However, the report also showed that most complaints (62%) came from members of the public. However, because many complaints made to the GMC by members of the public should be investigated locally, just one in five of these met the GMC’s criteria for a full investigation.
And many patients are unsure how to raise concerns about poor medical care. The GMC has said more needs to be done to help them.
Professor Sir Peter Rubin, GMC chair said: “What our report shows is that some patients don’t know where to go to raise a concern about their treatment and more needs to be done to help them raise issues. Making a complaint about a doctor can be stressful and it is important that concerns are raised with the right organisation so patients are not passed from pillar to post.
“The challenge for the GMC and the wider health service is to make sure that patients can reach the organisation best able to deal with their concerns as soon as possible. This year, we launched our first ever guide for patients to let them know what to expect from their doctor and where to go for advice but our report shows that there is still more we and others can do to create a quick and simple complaints process that works in the best interests of patients.”
Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “The GMC’s findings should help reassure the public that concerns about care are being identified earlier, reported more often, and resolved more swiftly. There is every sign that doctors are increasingly confident to highlight concerns about the practice and behaviour of colleagues and that these will be addressed without fear of recrimination. This is the culture of transparency that we are striving for in all parts of the NHS, and we won't allow our focus on it to slip.
“There are major opportunities right now for the medical community to lead that debate. GPs have taken over the reins of procurement and hospital doctors are about to enter their first formal renegotiation of contracts in a decade, with patients needing safe diagnosis, treatment and care every day of the week. I do hope this prompts a wider debate in the medical profession about the need to change and the pivotal role that doctors can play in finding innovative ways of delivering change in the NHS."