Male Doctors 2.5 Times More Likely To Be Sued for Medical Negligence

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The Daily Mail reports today that male Doctors are two and a half times more likely to be sued for medical negligence or face being struck off than their women peers. Regulator, the General Medical Council [GMC] has seen a 64% increase in complaints between 2010 and 2013.

A team from University College London reviewed 32 studies representing 40,246 cases of legal action. These included Doctors facing disciplinary action, malpractice claims, complaints received by non regulatory bodies that investigate healthcare complaints as well as criminal cases such as manslaughter.

The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, showed results found were consistent with others from across the world.

Researcher Dr Emily Unwin said, "More research is needed to understand the reasons for why male Doctors are more likely to experience a medico-legal action. The causes are likely to be complex and multifactorial. The medical profession, along with medical regulators, and medical educationalists now need to work together to identify and understand the underlying causal factors results in a sex difference in the experience of medico legal action".

Gender Gap Narrowed

A Specialist Clinical Negligence Lawyer at Simpson Millar says "It was once argued that the discrepancy in legal actions could be due to there being more male doctors but the gender gap has now narrowed and analysis has shown that the difference between the sexes has remained consistent for the past 15 years. It was reported last year that by 2017, for the first time, there will be more female than male Doctors in the United Kingdom. For many years – until the 60's – fewer than 10% of British Doctors were female. Then things changed. For the past four decades about 60% of students selected for training in UK medical schools have been female. This is understandable in academic terms because girls achieve slightly better A level grades than boys. They also mature earlier and may present themselves more impressively to medical school selection committees at the age of 17. The effect is beginning to be seen. In 2012, a total of 252,553 Doctors were registered with the General Medical Council. The male to female ratio was 57 to 43%. However, in its annual report in 2013, the GMC documented the changes in the UK medical register between 2007 and 2012. The most significant change was that the number of female Doctors under the age of 30 had increased by 18%, while the number of males decreased by 1%. In this age group, 61% of Doctors are now women and 39% men.

Negative Effects on NHS

It has been suggested, rather controversially, that this gender imbalance may have a negative effect on the NHS. The reason is that many female Doctors end up working part time – often in General Practice or may retire early. As a result, it has been suggested that it may be necessary to train two female Doctors so they can cover the same amount of work as one full time colleague. It has also been suggested that women in hospital medicine tend to avoid more demanding specialties which may require more anti social working hours. Instead of taking on a specialist career, many women prefer to look for a better work life balance when they have young children of their own.

It is perfectly reasonable that women should have career breaks to have children and it seems to me that today’s report that male Doctors are two and a half times more likely to be sued for medical negligence or face being struck off than their women peers can easily be explained.

Firstly, unlike their male counterparts women will often have career breaks to have children. They might then return to work on a part time basis which means that they will have less contact with patients than their male counterparts so claims are less likely to arise.

Secondly, women in hospital medicine may be avoiding the more demanding specialities, which in themselves may give rise to more claims.

Thirdly woman may be working less antisocial hours than their male counterparts, but don’t quote me on that!

It was recently reported that doctors have declared war on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt over a proposed 7 day NHS work week. 88% of Consultants are already working at weekends and The Independent quoted one Consultant who spoke of "intense working patterns affecting health and life outside work".


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