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Doctors blame Twitter and Facebook for a doubling of medical complaints

The General Medical Council (GMC) has laid the blame for a rise in patient medical complaints at the door of social media, following the publication of figures which show they have doubled over the past five years.

Between 2007 and 2012 complaints rose from 3,000 to 6,000 but only 1,000 of these were deemed worthy of investigation and only a handful resulted in formal proceedings being initiated against a doctor.

A GMC report into these trends, compiled by Peninsula Medical School at Plymouth University, found that patients are less deferential toward doctors than in the past and are thus more likely to approach the regulator or share complaints online.

This has been fuelled by social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter which act as platforms for patients to come together and discuss their treatment, as well as mechanisms for complaint.

The GMC added that the majority of complaints didn’t pertain to individual doctors but rather concerned the standard of care more generally, an issue which doesn’t fall within the GMC’s remit.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “We have no evidence that the rise in complaints against doctors reflects falling standards – what this research underlines is that patients are more willing to complain and find it easier to do so.

"Doctors too are more willing to raise concerns about their colleagues. 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.”

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