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Handful of doctors attract bulk of patient complaints

Written by | 9 Sep 2013 | All Medical News

World Health Matters – Australia – by Gary Finnegan – Half of all formal complaints made to health ombudsmen in Australia concern just 3% of the country’s doctors, with 1% accounting for a quarter of all complaints, according to research published in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Doctors who are the subject of more than three complaints are highly likely to be the subject of a further complaint – and often within a couple of years – the findings show.

The researchers base their findings on a national sample of almost 19,000 formal patient complaints filed against 11,148 doctors with health service ombudsmen across Australia between 2000 and 2011.

Around 60% of the complaints concerned clinical aspects of care, while almost one in four (23%) concerned communication issues, including the doctor’s attitude and the quality or quantity of information provided.

Most (79%) of the doctors involved in complaints were men, and over half of all those complained about (54%) were aged between 36 and 55.

The researchers looked at a host of factors that might help to flag up those doctors at high risk of attracting further complaints.

Male gender, older age, and working in surgical specialties were all associated with a higher risk of repeat complaints. But the number of previous complaints was the strongest predictor.

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