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Half of doctors practise differently after being sued or complained about
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2nd December 2015
AUK Staff
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 Claims and complaints are far more common nowadays than even 5 years ago, and our survey provides evidence of the enormous stress they place on clinicians
 Dr Caroline Fryar
Half of 138 doctors responding to a Medical Defence Union (MDU) survey say they worry more about complaints or practise differently as a result of being sued or investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC).

A further 27% (37) of respondents have either considered leaving the profession or have actually stopped working as a doctor and 10% (14) suffered health problems following the complaint or claim.

The MDU survey asked doctors involved in a GMC complaint or negligence claim over the last five years for their views on how they found the experience. Some 45% (62) of respondents said it was either horrible and the worst experience of their lives or very bad and disruptive. While 51% (71) said they found the experience upsetting but manageable or unpleasant, just 4% (5) said it was neutral or not as bad as expected.

One doctor commented:

"The fear of being sued never leaves you. Because of the experience I wouldn't want any of my children to become doctors."

Another explained that he thinks about the case every day and one clinician said she now feels physically sick every time she arrives at work.

Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU Head of advisory services commented:

“Claims and complaints are far more common nowadays than even 5 years ago, and our survey provides evidence of the enormous stress they place on clinicians. Very few GMC complaints lead to a sanction on the doctor's registration and in 2014 we successfully defended 80% of medical claims without a financial settlement. But that doesn't make undergoing an investigation any easier for the individual involved.

 Above all doctors should not feel they are dealing with this stressful situation alone. It's vital they contact their medical defence organisation as soon as they become aware of a complaint or claim or an incident that might lead to one
 Dr Caroline Fryar
“Everyone deals with complaints differently but it can be difficult not to take the matter personally. Doctors often continue to work throughout investigations which can be lengthy. In many cases this can lead to sleepless nights which can affect doctors' working and personal lives. In extreme cases clinicians can develop mental health or drug and alcohol problems which may impair their clinical judgement.

“Above all doctors should not feel they are dealing with this stressful situation alone. It's vital they contact their medical defence organisation as soon as they become aware of a complaint or claim or an incident that might lead to one. We can tell members what to expect and the process that will be followed and this can remove some of the fear of the unknown. In our survey 90% of respondents (123) said they felt well supported by the MDU and the legal team we provided.”


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