Number of complaints investigated by GMC falls by 18%

The number of complaints the GMC investigated fell by 18% during 2015, with GPs less likely than other doctors to be investigated despite receiving more complaints.

The GMC's annual State of Medical Education and Practice report shows that one in 20 (5%) GPs were complained about in 2015, slightly more than the average for all doctors at 3%.

However, GPs have the lowest proportion of complaints investigated, coming in at just over a quarter (27%) resulting in GMC action. For doctors overall, 32% of complaints were investigated.

The GMC said the fall in the number of investigations was a result of the council overhauling its initial triaging process, which it said enabled it to more accurately judge which inquiries merited a full investigation.

Three quarters (76%) of complaints made against GPs came from members of the public, compared to two thirds (66%) of complaints against specialists who were twice as likely as GPs to be flagged up by other doctors.

Outcomes of investigations remained at a similar level to previous years, with 69% closed with no further action, 14% closed with advice given to the doctor, 5% leading to official warnings, 6% resulting in conditions or undertakings and 7% leading to suspension or erasure.

The report also revealed that the regulator had received 8,269 complaints in 2015, 7% less than the number of complaints it received in 2014.

Read more: GMC highlights intolerable pressure on doctors

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, senior medicolegal adviser at Medical Protection said: ‘A significant amount of GMC investigations into doctors – around two thirds – are closed without action. On the surface this may appear positive, however it raises serious questions over why and how these cases are able to proceed to a full investigation.

‘We support doctors day-in, day-out when faced with a GMC investigation so are aware of the immense impact it can have. In our survey of 180 doctors investigated by the GMC over five years, 93% said it had impacted on their stress and anxiety.

‘The complaints triage process must be improved as a priority so the focus shifts away from investigations that are unnecessary, and the threshold for opening an investigation should be reviewed. We welcome GMC’s recognition that improvements are needed in a number of areas.’

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