A report on the state of medical education and practice published by the GMC, reveals that complaints about doctors dropped by 8% in 2017.
Further improvements detailed in the report include the decline in the number of complaints by 13% between 2012-17, and the use of the provisional enquiries procedure for complaints that are unlikely to result in action of a doctor’s registration. This has resulted in nearly 1000 complaints being closed without the need for a full investigation since the procedure began.
The report notes that ensuring employers deal with cases locally where possible, such as health cases, led to a reduction in employer referrals to the GMC by 46% between 2012-17.
However, the report also warned of the pressures and challenges faced in practice.
While welcoming the report, Dr Caroline Fryar, The Medical Defence Union (MDU) head of advisory services, said: "Overall the report makes for concerning reading and we are not surprised at the GMC’s findings about the pressure on doctors.
"We are becoming more aware of low morale and high levels of stress in many of our members as they work in an increasingly stretched NHS system. In these difficult times, we encourage members to call our 24-hour advisory helpline for support from one of our medico-legal doctors if they have concerns about their own wellbeing or the conditions in which they are working.
“We also help hundreds of members with GMC investigations each year and know how stressful the process can be for doctors. On behalf of our members we’ve been working with the GMC over a number of years to help them to reduce the burden of investigations. The reduction in the overall number of complaints and the move to see complaints resolved more quickly are good news.
“Nevertheless, for doctors undergoing a GMC investigation, the process can still be extremely distressing, not least because a fitness to practise investigation could end their career. At the MDU, our expert team of medico-legal advisers are available around the clock to support doctors throughout this stressful time.”