The number of complaints and inquiries received about Scottish doctors by the medical watchdog has almost trebled in five years, a new report has revealed.
The General Medical Council (GMC) said inquiries about doctors in Scotland, which needed to be examined to see if the medic’s fitness to practise was affected, increased from 342 in 2007 to 948 in 2012.
Within this figure, there was a 70 per cent rise in actual complaints about a doctor’s performance, up from 288 in 2007 to 491 in 2012.
In total, across the UK, 8,109 complaints were received in 2012 – up 24 per cent on the previous year and more than double the figure in 2007.
Of these complaints, 2,673 went on to be fully investigated, while the rest were closed or referred back to employers.
Patients’ campaigners in Scotland said people were becoming more aware of when things may have gone wrong with their care and were more willing to question doctors.
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, said patients were also now more likely to go online to research their condition.
“People are more willing to question their doctor and maybe complain if they think something has gone wrong because they find things out on the internet,” she said.
“It can be difficult for doctors, in the ten-minute consultation they are often given, to do as much as they would like for patients, so they have my sympathy for that.”
The GMC report said most complaints about doctors came from patients and from relatives and friends of those patients.
The GMC, which regulates around 250,000 doctors, said the overall number of complaints is very small when the number of interactions between doctors and patients is taken into account.
Nevertheless, the State of Medical Education and Practice report said: “We have commissioned research to try to understand why the number of complaints is rising.”
Professor Sir Peter Rubin, chairman of the GMC, said: “The GMC has an important role to play in protecting patients and ensuring that doctors practise to the highest possible standard.
“Complaints from members of the public, doctors and other professionals are invaluable in helping us to do this.
“However, what our report shows is that some patients don’t know where to go to raise a concern about their treatment and more needs to be done to help them raise issues.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Where mistakes like this happen, we expect they are corrected quickly and lessons are learnt. Our health service does a fantastic job in the overwhelming number of cases.”