Wednesday 7 December 2016

Jump in complaints of doctors not treating patients with dignity

Published 05/06/2015 | 02:30

Rise in patient complaints about doctors being rude
Rise in patient complaints about doctors being rude

The number of complaints claiming doctors failed to treat patients with dignity doubled last year, new figures show.

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There were 65 of these complaints made to the Medical Council, with some patients claiming the doctor was rude, insensitive or condescending.

The watchdog also received 91 allegations of poor communication by doctors, with this category overtaking, for the first time, complaints about poor diagnosis, which generated 90 reports.

Overall, the volume of complaints made fell to 308 last year, down from 400 in 2013, according to the Medical Council's annual report.

It imposed sanctions against 12 doctors, with one being struck off. Seven were admonished, censured or advised while four had conditions attached to their practice.

Just 24 of last year's complaints were assessed as suitable for a full fitness to practice inquiry into the doctor. Another eight were referred elsewhere.

Less complaints made it through to full inquiries in the wake of a court judgment which said a finding of poor professional performance against a doctor arising out of a single incidence or error had to be "very serious".

The 19 inquiries completed in 2014 compared to 39 in 2013.

Launching the report, Freddie Wood, president of the council, said it has spoken to the HSE about the low number of doctors it refers to the watchdog.The HSE made four referrals last year but is more likely to express "concerns". He said it is often up to the council to proceed with a formal complaint.

Although fitness to practise hearings involving doctors have been allowed to be conducted in public for the last six years, the majority of the 19 cases were held behind closed doors last year.

These private hearings followed applications for secrecy due to issues such as allegations of sexual assault or a doctor's health.

Chief executive Caroline Spillane, who leaves the council this month for a new post, said its experience was that people who had grievances preferred if they were sorted out as quickly as possible at hospital level rather than having to take the matters further.

Meanwhile, a survey by the council found only half of trainee doctors intend to practise medicine in Ireland for the foreseeable future. One in 10 intends to leave and one in four is undecided. Most intend going to the UK, followed by Canada, Australia and the USA.

There are 19,092 doctors registered here, which is the highest number in a decade.

The report showed 43 doctors were referred to its committee which deals with medics who have health problems. Of these, 22 had a mental health problem, eight were abusing alcohol and five were addicted to drugs. Six had an alcohol and drug problem. Some 15 were referred by a third party.

Irish Independent

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