Alleged delayed or missed diagnosis was the reason for the majority of complaints against GPs, with almost all doctors facing a complaint in their career.
Figures from the Medical Defence Union (MDU) in partnership with the Healthcare Leadership Academy (HLA) show that 97 per cent of GPs surveyed have received a complaint against them during the course of their career.
The survey of 741 doctors, of whom 40 per cent were GPs, found 46 per cent of complaints were related to an alleged delayed or missed diagnosis, while 19 per cent and 17 per cent focused on an alleged delayed referral and breakdown of communication respectively
The research found 40 per cent of complaints were resolved locally within the individual’s own clinical team, but 70 per cent of doctors said the complaint had an impact on their professional life while 65 per cent said it had also impacted upon their personal lives
These findings also support the MDU’s previous research which found that 77 per cent of GPs were concerned about facing a complaint related to the pandemic. GPs also stated that the commonest reasons for a patient complaint included increased waiting times for treatments, delays in accessing screening and tests, communication difficulties and consulting with patients online.
Looking broadly at all doctors, the survey also found that current trainee doctors received more complaints over the last year (38 per cent) then either GPs or consultants (20 per cent and 21 per cent respectively). Consultants were the most likely to face a complaint due to treatment complications (30 per cent) compared to 13 per cent of trainee doctors and 5 per cent of GPs.
Dr Caroline Fryar, head of advisory services at the MDU said: “While all doctors are likely to face a complaint at some point in their career, the pandemic may result in an influx of patient complaints resulting from issues such as delays in diagnosis, treatment and referrals.
“This is of particular concern as many complaints have the potential to become claims for compensation in the years ahead, which is worrying for many doctors. Consequently, the stress of dealing with complaints and claims far into the future could push many doctors to breaking point. It could lead to an exodus of healthcare professionals at a time when the NHS will be depending on experienced staff to get through the backlog of cases.
“At the MDU, our role is to lessen the burden on members and we encourage them to get our support early on if they are aware of a potential complaint.”