Saturday 18 November 2017

Psychiatrists and obstetricians prone to complaints

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Psychiatrists, obstetricians, plastic surgeons and doctors who work for on-call services are the medics most prone to being formally complained about.

An analysis of around 2,000 complaints made to the doctors' regulatory body, the Medical Council, over five years found patients' grievances were often driven by the medics' attitude and behaviour towards them.

"Negative emotional reactions were very commonly reported by complainants and were often linked with poor communication. These ranged from upset and anxiety to anger," said the Council's report.

Male doctors are twice as likely to find they are the subject of patient dissatisfaction while there has been a significant rise in complaints about older doctors.

Overall there is a rising tide of complaints about doctors - up from 335 in 2008 to 488 in 2012.

The report suggests one of the contributory factors is the "sustained diet of negative coverage" about the professional failings of some doctors.

Most complaints are made by the public rather than employers. Complaints by employers are more likely to go on to a full fitness to practise inquiry.

Overall, just one in 10 complaints go on to a formal inquiry, a figure which has previously led to criticism.

Defending the figure, the Council said a certain threshold must be reached before a formal inquiry is called.

It acknowledged the "expectation gap" which can lead to dissatisfaction with the way complaints are handled.

However, it pointed to a need to improve the other avenues for people to complain.

Of the 221 which were subject to inquiry, 148 or 68pc led to serious sanctions for the doctor.

Those who qualified outside Ireland are more likely to face sanction along with those without legal representation.

Commenting on the response of doctors to complaints, an analysis found they often have a robust rebuttal of the allegations.

Some cite their long experience to deny allegation. Others express their distress and shock at accusations.

A number said it preoccupied their every waking hour.

In a sample of complaints analysed, 30pc of doctors offered sympathy and condolence.

Medical Council President Freddie Wood said: "It is crucial now that we work with the wider health sector to collectively learn from complaints."

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan stressed the need to listen to patients.

High profile cases in recent years have impacted on the public's trust.

Irish Independent

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