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MPS survey reveals 80% of Irish GPs practise defensively to avoid claims and complaints

12 September 2013

  
An MPS survey of more than 180 GP members in Ireland has revealed that 80% of respondents practise defensively to avoid complaints and claims.1

Doctors who practise defensively may order more investigations, change their prescribing habits or avoid certain procedures to help protect themselves rather than because it is necessary in the patient’s best interests. Ahead of its GP Conference 2013 – Spotlight on Risk – MPS wanted to see whether a fear of complaints and claims is leading doctors to change the way they practise medicine.2

Many claims and complaints originate not because of substandard care, but because of poor communication between the doctor and the patient

A large majority of respondents (93%) believe that doctors are now more likely to be the subject of a claim or complaint, and of those, 66% consider patients expecting more to be a primary cause, 43% believe it is due to reduced standards of care and 39% think this is a result of the tough economic environment.

Dr Stephanie Bown, Director of Policy and Communications at MPS and Conference Chair said: “Around 15% of GPs surveyed had experienced a claim for negligence or a complaint investigation by the Irish Medical Council in the last 12 months. In our experience, many claims and complaints originate not because of substandard care, but because of poor communication between the doctor and the patient.

“As a doctor you cannot always guarantee a successful outcome for every patient, but if you have managed your patient’s treatment appropriately, communicated effectively from the beginning, and kept quality notes, it will reduce the risk of the patient bringing a successful complaint or a claim.

“A positive aspect of the survey’s findings was that of the doctors who said they practise defensively, 59% of respondents strongly agreed that they kept more detailed records, 61% are more careful to ensure that follow-up arrangements are in place and 38% conduct more investigations.

“Defensive medicine is different from defensible practice and it could make your practice more risky. MPS’s conference aims to make GPs aware of some of the medicolegal risks in general practice and advise on how to manage these, without letting the fear of being sued adversely affect the way they deliver care.”

MPS has more than 16,000 doctors, dentists and health professional members in Ireland, including around 70% of GPs. The organisation has more than 280,000 members worldwide.

Further information

For more information please contact Kim Watson, Press Officer at MPS on +44 207 399 1409 or email kim.watson@mps.org.uk.

Notes to editors

  1. MPS conducted a survey of GPs in Ireland to find out whether a fear of complaints and claims is leading doctors to change the way they practise medicine, which received 182 respondents.
  2. The MPS General Practice Conference 2013 – Spotlight on Risk – will be held on Thursday 12 September at the Irish Management Institute in Dublin, Ireland. It will be attended by around 200 GPs and primary care practitioners and special guests from the Medical Council and Irish Medical Organisation. For more details about the conference including a full programme click here
  3. Further information about MPS in Ireland.