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Patients Making Voices Heard As Medical Complaints Rise 23%

Medical Law Experts React To New GMC Figures


The General Medical Council (GMC) has been urged by clinical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to ensure it thoroughly examines every concern raised over standards of practice in the UK, after new figures revealed complaints have reached a record high in 2011.

According to its second annual State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK report, the number of complaints made to the GMC hit 8,781, a 23 per cent increase from the figure recorded 12 months earlier.

It also found that a number of complaints were related to how doctors interact with patients, with issues related to communication rising by 69 per cent and a lack of respect increasing by 45 per cent.

The GMC also revealed that the likelihood of the organisation investigating a doctor rose from one in 68 to one in 64 across the period analysed.

Irwin Mitchell’s medical negligence experts have vast experience in representing patients who have suffered injury or illness as a result of substandard care or inadequate treatment, helping them to secure answers and justice over the ordeals they have endured.

Mandy Luckman, a Partner and specialist in medical law at the firm’s Birmingham office, said the results of the research could be viewed two ways.

She outlined: “While it is worrying to see more complaints being lodged about the practice of medical professionals, the statistics could also be viewed in a more positive light. It is heartening that patients feel they can come forward and make their voices heard when they have concerns over treatment or the actions that doctors are taking.

“Considering the size of the health service, it could also be seen that the number of complaints remains small. However, that does not mean that each and every issue raised should not be carefully and thoroughly examined.

“One particular concern is the rise in communication-related problems as, through our work, we have seen a number of instances when patients have gone on to suffer serious health problems and even fatalities simply because doctors failed to listen to or dismissed their worries without proper assessments.

“There may be scope for the NHS and health authorities to consider the training and expectations that are placed on medical professionals in terms of communication, ensuring that they are able to provide expert advice but also carefully consider their concerns.

“Patient safety must always come first and we hope that patients continue to come forward about the issues they are facing and the GMC also investigates all matters quickly and thoroughly. Such actions should go some way to ensuring that standards in UK health services continually improve.”