The GMC received the highest ever number of complaints against doctors and held a record number of investigations and fitness to practise hearings in 2010.
The annual report of fitness to practise statistics shows the GMC received 7,153 complaints in 2010, compared with 5,773 in 2009. The GMC launched more than 2,000 investigations in 2010, an 18% increase from 2009. The number of fitness to practise hearings also increased from 270 in 2009 to 326 in 2010.
A total of 92 doctors were erased from the medical register for disciplinary reasons in 2010, the largest ever annual total. A further 106 doctors were suspended from the register by fitness to practise panels.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “Our job is to protect patients. Taking firm action with doctors who are failing to meet our standards is an important part of doing that job and addressing the unacceptable variation in medical practice identified in our recent State of Medicine report.
“But the rise in complaints and investigations does not mean that standards of medical practice are falling. Our research shows that doctors and their employers are now much more likely to raise concerns about their medical colleagues – this is a welcome development.”
A GMC report, released last month, analysed the regulator’s data to better understand the nature of medical practice today.
The report examined trends in the GMC’s fitness to practise statistics and concluded there was a significant variation in the quality of medical practice in the UK. A number of priorities were identified by the GMC to improve medical practice, including the introduction of revalidation and making sure doctors apply our standards in their day-to-day practice.
The detailed data for 2010 published today outlines the number of complaints received about doctors and how those complaints are dealt with at each stage of the fitness to practise procedures. It also breaks down the results by ethnicity, gender, place of primary medical qualification, time since the primary medical qualification and area of practice.
The data suggests that the GMC needs to follow up on more complaints about male doctors. Male doctors represented just over 58% of registered doctors, but accounted for 75% of complaints in 2010.
Furthermore, at panel hearings in 2010, the older the doctor the more likely on average they were to be erased from the register.
There are differences in the numbers of complaints between specialties. A quarter of all registered doctors are GPs, but nearly half of the complaints received in 2010 were about GPs.
Dickson added: “We are delivering a series of far-reaching reforms to our fitness to practise procedures. We are transferring responsibility for running doctors’ hearings to a new tribunal service headed by an independent figure with judicial experience who will report to Parliament. We are also seeking the right to appeal decisions we think do not go far enough to protect the public from doctors who should not be practising. We will make further changes so that cases can be dealt with more quickly, providing faster public protection and a quicker process for complainants and doctors.”
Read the statistics.