Table 1

Doctors' experiences of the complaint: themes

Main themesDoctors
Example quote
1. Negative feelings toward the complainant or those managing the complaint48“I felt like a criminal when referred to the GMC when the complaint was clearly vexatious, altering MRI scans in 3 venues is physically impossible.”
2. Feelings of impotence, powerlessness, or helplessness45“The patient is at liberty to make unpleasant inaccurate and very personal accusations (I was unfairly accused of being racist) and the doctor has no means of redress.”
3. Emotional distress42“It was a stressful situation to be in, which significantly affected my work performance and the rest of my life.”
4. Positive feelings23“I had full support of colleagues, clear understanding of procedure, support and advice from Defence Union throughout the process.”
5. Negative feelings towards self22
 Being stigmatised or victimised13“Even if the complaint is found to have no foundation there is an ongoing stigma attached to it.”
 Feelings of having failed or being incompetent11“Makes you feel worthless even when you know you've done the best you can”
  • GMC, General Medical Council; MRI, magnetic resonance imaging.