GMC guide for patients 'will not boost complaints'

The GMC says its new guide telling patients what they can expect from doctors will not drive up complaints about the profession.

Niall Dickson: patients need to know what they can expect from doctors
Niall Dickson: patients need to know what they can expect from doctors

The booklet, What to expect from your doctor: a guide for patients, published today, tells patients they are entitled to a second opinion if they disagree with a diagnosis or treatment.

It also informs patients to complete any questionnaires as part of doctors’ appraisals, ‘honestly and fairly’.

The guide reads: ‘Doctors must be polite and considerate to you and people close to you, and treat you with dignity and respect. You should also be polite and show respect to your doctors.’

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the guide is based on the regulator's Good Medical Practice advice.

‘It is simply an explanation through patients’ eyes of what Good Medical Practice means if you are a patient receiving care,’ he said. ‘The authoritative document in terms of what we expect from doctors is Good Medical Practice.

‘We don’t see this as something that patients will use to hit doctors over the head with. On the contrary it is meant to be a constructive document which reflects the evolving nature of the doctor-patient relationship.

‘Patients increasingly expect to be and are partners of that relationship. It was important that as well as simply setting out to doctors what we expect from them, patients should be aware of what we are expecting from doctors, so that is why we have decided to produce this booklet.’

Mr Dickson said that the GMC was receiving an increase in complaints about doctors ‘year on year’. He said that the regulator was researching the reasons behind this. But he said there had been no evidence that this was due to decreasing standards of patient care.

He said: ‘It is about patient expectations. It is about access to the internet. I think that makes it easier for people to complain. There are various reasons why it is happening.’

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