Table 5

Less commonly reported themes

ThemeNumber of doctors/100Example quote
Negative feelings towards complainant or those managing them48
 Disappointment3“I felt disappointed that having spent over 1 hour face to face in a PALs facilitated meeting, and that the complainant had said all questions had been answered to his satisfaction that the exact same points were raised in a complaint to the PCT some months later.”
 Being bullied3“He then proceeded to look for errors in my work every day, double checking and questioning everything I did. He finally found some personal mail that I had delivered to my work address and used that as a basis of a complaint.”
 Unappreciated2“I felt fed up and unappreciated. Seems anyone can complain and about anything. Never really get much thanks when things go well.”
 Humiliated2“ I felt a bit paranoid, and humiliated.”
Emotional distress42
 Exhaustion4“I became obsessional about my record keeping to the point my working days extended and I became exhausted.”
 Depression3“I became exhausted; had a year later to take 4 months off with an agitated depression.”
 Loneliness2“Despite support from my employer, the BMA, the MPS and others—I still felt very alone in dealing with this, and felt very unsure about the best way forward and the timescales involved.”
 Became ill2“I had a malicious complaint from someone I now know to be a serial complainer, it was the first time I've experienced a complaint and I've had physical and mental health symptoms since it occurred.”
 Suicidal1“I cry, can't sleep and contemplate suicide and certainly not being a doctor anymore.”
Negative feelings towards self22
 Feeling responsible1“I was devastated when one of our patients collapsed with an avoidable complication and later died. It could have been prevented.”
Doctors suggestions to improve the complaints system93
 Patients should lose their right of confidentiality in the event that a complaint was vexatious2“If patient charter better protected the doctor against unfounded allegations. Any patient going to the media should automatically give up their right of confidentiality for the issues they raise in the complaint.”
 No changes needed3“I don't feel there is a fundamental problem with the complaints system.”
  • BMA, British Medical Association; MPS, Medical Protection Society; PALs, Patient Advice and Liaison Service; PCT, Primary Care Trust.