Atos 'vexatious complaints' BMA warning to GMC

Mr Peterson made this Freedom of Information request to General Medical Council

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Dear General Medical Council,

On the British Medical Association (BMA) website it is stated that they have contacted the GMC regarding 'vexatious complaints' being made to the GMC about doctors employed by Atos Healthcare, which the BMA are of the opinion are due to Atos doctors providing a professional opinion which has financial implications for the patient:

"Doctors providing medical services to the DWP are frequently subject to what may be considered 'vexatious’ complaints, following consultations where the doctor has provided a professional opinion which has financial implications for the patient. As a result, doctors may feel vulnerable and be increasingly reluctant to undertake this essential area of work. The BMA has raised this issue of financially-orientated 'vexatious’ complaints with the General Medical Council (GMC), who has taken on board our comments. The changes in the GMC's complaints procedure, such that the majority of complaints are now handled at a local level and doctors are no longer removed from the GMC website whilst under investigation, have somewhat eased the concerns of medical services doctors. The BMA has during previous discussion with Atos Healthcare highlighted the potential for vexatious complaints. Atos Healthcare has sought to assure the Association that this area is being closely monitored."
http://www.bma.org.uk/employmentandcontr...

In response to a previous request on the whatdotheyknow.com website the GMC have stated that of the12 doctors employed by ATOS who were under investigation by the GMC only two of those cases related to work that the doctor was carrying out for ATOS, and that in the other cases, the issues raised did not relate to their ATOS work.

"In your email you refer to the recent media reports concerning 12 doctors employed by ATOS who were under investigation. I should explain that only two of these cases related to work that the doctor was carrying out for ATOS. In the other cases, the issues raised did not relate to their ATOS work."
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/at...

This does not reflect the BMA claims that complaints made against Atos doctors are due to financial implications, indeed the information you have supplied shows that of the complaints investigated against Atos doctors 83.4% could have nothing to do with financial implications as they were not due to Atos work. Therefore, the BMA's claims appear to have little merit especially when taking into consideration that in defending Atos doctors by using allegations of 'vexatious complaints' the BMA are in effect bringing into question the professional competence of many of their other members. As the patients own doctors and specialists medical opinions are being systematically dismissed in the advice of doctors working for Atos, resulting in DWP decisions of which 40% have been overturned at appeal to Tribunal, rising to 70% with representation.

Also, I have serious concerns that in making such generalisations as 'vexatious complaints' due to 'financial implications for the patient' the BMA could be deterring patients who have been dissatisfied with the performance of Atos doctors from making justified and legitimate complaints to the GMC. Ironically the BMA make numerous criticisms of Atos on their website due to the financial implications of a doctor working for Atos/DWP.

Therefore I wish to request under the Freedom Of Information Act the communications in which the BMA has raised the issue of financially-orientated 'vexatious’ complaints with the General Medical Council . Along with a statement of whether this has in any way resulted in changes in your complaints procedure, such that the majority of complaints are now handled at a local level and doctors are no longer removed from the GMC website whilst under investigation

Also, in the previous request I have quoted...
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/at...
...you have referred to an 'Enquiry', rather than a complaint, as being the term you use for an initial complaint or referral about a doctor. You then state that you carry out an assessment on each 'enquiry' to establish whether you consider it to be appropriate to open a case for the doctor, or each doctor, referred to in the 'enquiry'.

You further state that If an enquiry is closed at the initial consideration stage you only record limited information on that complaint.

Therefore, I wish to request under the Freedom Of Information Act the number of complaints the GMC have received in the last 12 months about Atos doctors which you have classed as 'enquiries' and have dismissed as inappropriate to warrant opening as a case for the doctor named in the complaints. Please also supply an indication of whether you considered each of these instances to be 'vexatious complaints' and/or whether they were made due to 'financial implications for the patient'.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Peterson

FOI, General Medical Council

Dear Mr Peterson

Information request - F11/4057/ME

Thank you for your email of 21 September 2011 asking for information
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

We'll consider your request and give you the information as soon as
possible, normally within the 20 working-day limit set by the FOIA.

Please note that there may be some information which we can't release to
you under the FOIA. If this is the case, we'll let you know why and
state the relevant exemptions given in the FOIA. We'll also give you
information about how to appeal our decision.

I've allocated your request to Mark Ellen. If you have any questions,
please contact them on 0161 923 6347 or email [email address].

Yours sincerely

Sarah Leigh
Information Access Team Administrator
0161 923 6398
[email address]

General Medical Council
3 Hardman Street
Manchester
M3 3AW

show quoted sections

Mark Ellen (0161 923 6347), General Medical Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Peterson

Please see attached letter of today's date in response to your e-mail of
21 September 2011.

Regards
Mark Ellen

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