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Medical Complaints

There are set procedures to making medical complaints and,

sad to say, very little likelihood of success.

IF YOU want to make a complaint, you need to gather evidence carefully, in much the same way as you would if complaining about care.  You need to go through the hoops one by one, appealing at every stage. Responses are set to 'dismiss'.


If you have a complaint about medical staff   

  • The first hoop is to complain to the hospital or the surgery. They will have their own procedure.

  • If you're still not happy, then you may refer the matter to the Health Service Ombudsman. This can be a thankless exercise. See here for the Ombudsman's website.


 But, if you really want a dispiriting time, try complaining to the General Medical Council about a doctor.

   It is a harrowing and distressing experience, designed to put you off.

In 2015

  • There were 273,767 doctors on the register.

  • More than 6,500 concerns were raised by members of the public. 

  • More than 4,500 were closed at the ‘triage’ stage – without any investigation.

  • Only 279 - just over four per cent - were referred to a fitness to practice panel.


The GMC System

  • Hoop 1 – The knee-jerk brush off.

  • Hoop 2 -  You can try to appeal against this. But you are unlikely to succeed – no figures are given.

  • Hoop 3 - If you get this far, you may be granted a provisional enquiry. In 2015,there were 351 provisional enquiries and 75 per cent were closed without a full investigation.

  • Hoop 4 - An internal enquiry is granted, but most are dismissed without a formal investigation. You cannot appeal.  

  • Hoop 5 - Just 279 cases were referred to the fitness to practice panel, another 144 doctors were asked for undertakings and 135 were given warnings. 



Action was taken in respect of just six per cent of complaints 

- a dismissal rate to embarrass a 1970s' detective.

  • If you complain to the GMC, there is a 94 per cent chance your complaint will be rejectedThe doctor concerned will not have been bothered.


  • If you get a full investigation, you have done really well. Tell yourself it is a victory in itself. It really is. 


  • A doctor who has been subject to a full investigation may find it hard to get insurance, even when they are, inevitably, cleared. The insurance industry knows what it means about the doctor.

The Reality 

  • If you complain to the GMC, at every hurdle, you have to restate your case again, go over everything in gruesome detail. It is unbelievably unpleasant.

  • You must use the correct, GMC, terminology, referring to breaches of specific GMC rules.

  • You must not be angry or cutting.

  • You must not be sarcastic or rude - tempting though it may be.

  • Get help from a medical person. Every detail must be recorded and backed up with evidence.

  • If you have help and spend a lot of time working on your evidence, you might make it to a full investigation.

How it works

At the investigation stage, the investigating doctors break down everything that has happened into separate incidents. Then they look at each incident separately to see if anything constituted a sufficiently serious breach to warrant any action against their fellow doctor.

  • They can generally reject most complaints – even those that have made it through the hoops - since no one thing is sufficiently 'bad'.

  • They will reject weeks of poor treatment and practice as “General Practice today”: not visiting a very sick patient,  not ordering tests, prescribing opiates over the phone, prescribing the wrong antibiotics, refusing to visit in an emergency    because “I’m going home” - this is just General Practice today.

  • Even if the patient dies an avoidable death, you will probably be told this is “General Practice today”.

  • You have to be very upset and angry and have a very good case to go to the GMC.

  • It requires a lot of effort. And you will almost certainly have your case rejected.  

Sad to say, the death of older patients seems to exercise the Doctors’ organisation less than a potential tabloid sex story.

But you cannot say that, because it's sarcastic - the GMC doesn't react well to sarcasm. Actually, it doesn't react well full stop.

No wonder they're smiling. The GMC dismisses more than 90 per cent of complaints against doctors

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