Intended for healthcare professionals


Editor’s Choice: Connecting, complaints, and crippling costs

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 29 September 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i5196
  1. Tom Moberly, editor
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. tmoberly{at}

Many doctors are evangelical about the benefits that social media can offer working doctors. Others are sceptical of the potential advantages and wary of the pitfalls of interacting in such an open online space, and the General Medical Council has been concerned enough about the issue to produce guidance for doctors who use social media.

Abi Rimmer has sought to quantify the threats facing doctors in using social media She found that use of Facebook and Twitter was a factor in at least 13 complaints made to the GMC last year. Given the potential advantages of using social media, and the fact that thousands of doctors do so every day, a dozen or so complaints would seem to show that in reality few doctors are using social media inappropriately.

But other complaints about doctors, and the costs to the health service of dealing with them, have risen sharply over the past few years. Reform of investigation of complaints, and of the way legal costs are allocated, are a key part of the changes to the medicolegal system that Michael Devlin wants to see Theresa May’s government enact

The litigation costs facing the NHS are, Devlin says, “staggering.” The NHS Litigation Authority estimates that current hospital clinical negligence claims will cost £56.4bn—just under half the overall budget of the NHS in England.

Without measures to control this rising cost, most of the money allocated to funding healthcare will end up going towards clinical negligence costs.

That would cripple the health service’s ability to meet the growing demands on its services.

Credit: Malcolm Willett


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