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Doctors under fire as patient gripes rise 20pc

THE number of complaints against doctors to the Irish Medical Council has increased by more than 20pc.

As many as 361 complaints were made in 2010, while there were 295 to the medical watchdog in the previous year.

A total number of 384 doctors were mentioned -- as well as multiple complaints about some practitioners -- 23 doctors were reported more than once last year.

The majority of grievances concerned the medics' professional standards -- 160 complaints regarded this particular area -- while, 24pc (86 cases) of the accusations were about the treatment received.

Doctors' failure to communicate effectively and alleged impoliteness towards patients was also mentioned in 30 cases, and 22 complaints were made about practitioners' failure to supply medical records or reports.

Ten allegations of drug or alcohol abuse or irresponsible prescribing were reported to the medical council in 2010.

The rest of the accusations concerned convictions, advertising or unspecified issues.



Inquiry

Anonymous complaints against doctors to the Irish Medical Council, which is the regulatory and registration body for doctors, are always followed up, according to its legal adviser.

There were 18,282 doctors registered with the council on January 1, 2011 -- one in 49 had a complaints made about them last year.

Medics have to answer the allegation but due process is followed to ensure that they receive a fair hearing.

The average time it takes to reach a decision on an inquiry is now almost four months.

Of the complaints processed by the council last year -- some of which had been made in 2009 -- there was no case to be heard in 264 cases.

However, 54 cases were found to require a fitness to practice hearing.

Nineteen doctors were found guilty of professional misconduct, two were found unfit to engage in the practice of medicine and four were found guilty of poor professional performance.

Two doctors were eventually struck off the register in 2010 after their hearing, while 10 had conditions attached to their practice.

Another three medics were suspended and 14 were censured or admonished.

hnews@herald.ie


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