Social Media Causes Rise In Patient Complaints

The GMC Believes More People Are Complaining About Their Doctors Because Of Social Media

21.07.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A new report from the General Medical Council (GMC) has concluded that access to social media is partly behind a rise in complaints about doctors.

While some had thought the doubling of complaints regarding medical treatment between 2007 and 2012 may have been due to government budget cuts, the GMC believes the reason is more simple.

According to the organisation, people expect greater levels of care from their doctors than is traditionally the case and with access to social media rising, people are using sites like Twitter and Facebook to express their anger when they might previously have kept their thoughts to themselves.

The GMC also believes a campaign to make itself more visible and open to complaints against its members may also have been a contributing factor to the surge.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said there was no evidence of falling standards among doctors and that the NHS continues to do a good job in providing excellent care for patients.

"The challenge for the GMC and other organisations is to make sure that anyone who has a concern or complaint can find their way to the right organisation to deal with it," Mr Dickson added.

"For the vast majority of patients and relatives, that will mean local resolution. The large number of complaints we receive that are not for us, suggests that the current system is not working as well as it should."

This is not the first time there have been calls for the NHS's complaints system to be overhauled.

According to Healthwatch, the way the NHS handles complaints at present is "hopelessly complicated" and should be changed immediately.

The watchdog wants the system to be simplified so patients know where to direct their issues and how long they can expect to wait until a resolution is reached.

Despite the rise in complaints seen in the past few years, a think tank recently named the NHS as the best healthcare system in the world - with most patients happy about the care they receive.

Expert Opinion
It is alarming that complaints about the care patients receive increased so dramatically between 2007 and 2012. While such an increase is clearly a concern, it can be argued that the presence of social media and the fact patients understand their health better means they feel their voices are more likely to be heard than ever before.

"We have seen first-hand the damage that can be caused when individuals receive treatment that does not meet the correct standards. It is vital that the NHS takes notice of the concerns patients have raised about their treatment and take steps to rectify any problems as soon as possible.

"It is also clear from the report that the current complaint handling procedure needs to be reviewed, so concerns from patients are understood and addressed. Reassurances are needed that issues are being resolved and that people will always receive the best possible care, with safety the top priority."
Mandy Luckman, Partner