The survey of 180 doctors, carried out by the Medical Protection Society, revealed that half (52%) of doctors felt being investigated by the GMC impacted on their professional reputation and 76% that their personal life had been negatively affected as a result.
Almost a third (28%) considered leaving the medical profession as a result of their experience, while 2% actually did.
The majority - 70% - said they believed the GMC should do more to provide support to GPs undergoing an investigation.
Results are 'alarming'
Dr Richard Stacey, senior medico-legal adviser at the MPS, said the results were ‘alarming’ but ‘unfortunately not surprising’.
He said: ‘The attributes that make a good doctor (for example, being caring, kind and conscientious) can also make them particularly vulnerable if they become the subject of a GMC investigation.
‘A doctor can experience fear when they receive a letter from the GMC informing them that they are the subject of a GMC investigation. The GMC do provide information about their procedures to doctors who become the subject of an investigation, however the correspondence can appear formal and legalistic.’
GMC to improve support
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said he accepted the GMC could do more to support doctors and reduce stress during inspections, and it was working to achieve this.
He said: ‘Patient safety has to be our first priority, but we also recognise that we have a duty of care towards doctors involved in our investigations. Our procedures will always be stressful, and of course some of the doctors who are referred to us are already under considerable strain or have mental health problems.
‘The MPS recognises the steps we have taken to make our procedures less stressful. We have an ambitious programme to speed up the process, disposing of more cases without the need for a hearing, and setting up the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, a separate adjudication tribunal headed by a judge committed to fair and effective decision making.
‘At the same time we accept there is more we can do and we will work with the defence organisations, the BMA and others to find ways to support doctors and reduce stress where we can.’