'Bedside manner' is most common trigger of complaints about GPs

Patients are more likely to make complaints about GPs due to poor bedside manner and bad attitude than for misdiagnosing them, a poll of the public has suggested.

A YouGov survey of over 2,000 British adults, commssioned by medico-legal organisation Medical Protection, found that three of the top five most popular reasons for making a complaint were related to how their GP interacted with them.

Among those who had made an official complaint, a third (32%) said their reasoning was down to 'poor behaviour such as manner or attitude' from the GP, making it the most common cause.

This pushed misdiagnosis – which was a factor in a fifth (20%) of complaints – into second place. In third place was unmet expectations (18%), followed by ‘breakdown in communication’ (16%).

In fifth place, one in eight (13%) patients said complaints were due to them experiencing a poor outcome after receiving treatment.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, senior medicolegal adviser at Medical Protection, said: ‘Communication and behaviour sit at the heart of all GP consultations and many of the complaints we see against GPs are rooted in communication.

GP complaints

‘This survey demonstrates just how important it is, with three of the top five reasons for a complaint relating to communication and behaviour issues. In fact, more patients cite behaviour such as poor manner and attitude as a reason than a misdiagnosis.

‘While most doctors appreciate the need for good communication, the importance of manner, body language and tone can sometimes be overlooked in a busy clinic and under the pressure of a 10-minute consultation.

‘We always encourage doctors to establish a patient’s expectations as early on as possible to prevent a misunderstanding on what is and isn’t possible. This can stop a patient feeling dismissed or that their expectations have not been met - and as this survey shows, in many cases can prevent a complaint being made.’

Previous findings from Medical Protection have shown that three in four (76%) patients would be ‘unlikely’ to make a complaint if their GP apologised following an adverse event.

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