More PCOs complain to GMC

The GMC received a record 4,980 complaints or enquiries about doctors in 2005, a 12 per cent increase on the previous year.

The proportion of complaints from the general public fell from 74 per cent in 2004 to 71 per cent in 2005. However, complaints from primary care organisations (PCOs) and other public bodies rose from 15 to 19 per cent.

The proportion of complaints received from other doctors also increased from 6 per cent in 2004 to 8 per cent in 2005.

Two thirds of fitness-to-practice decisions completed in December 2005 exonerated the doc- tor involved (see box). A further one in 10 was simply given advice.

Warnings were issued to 4 per cent, and specific undertakings agreed with 2 per cent. About 2 per cent were voluntarily removed from the register.

Just over 15 per cent were referred for adjudication by a GMC panel.

The vast majority of these cases end in suspension, erasure from the register or restricted working conditions.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said the increase reflected social trends.

'We now have more of a culture of complaining and litigiousness,' he said.

He added that the increase in complaints from public organisations was concerning.

'The government has encouraged this. It's part of making sure that with anything it gets wrong, the buck is passed to the nearest doctor,' he said.

An analysis of the complaints was made by the York Health Economics Consortium.

It found that overall a higher proportion of doctors who qualified overseas were referred to adjudication in compared with UK- qualified doctors.

Furthermore, the analysis found this disparity was also true of the complaints made by public bodies.

The report recommended further research into the reasons behind these conclusions.

How complaints were dealt with:

  • 65% no impairment found.
  • 15% referral for adjudication.
  • 11% advice given.
  • 4% warning issued.
  • 2% agree undertakings.
  • 2% voluntary removal from register.
  • 1% other.

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