The number of concerns raised by whistleblowers to the GMC over the past year was up by almost 20% compared to the previous year, according to new figures.
In total, 43 concerns were disclosed in the period from April 2020 to March 2021, compared to 36 in the same period in 2019/20.
The figures are part of a wider report into whistleblowing across the health and care sector, published jointly this week (27 September) by the GMC and seven other bodies, including the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
All but one of the 43 disclosures to the GMC was a fitness to practise complaint. The final one was a registration and revalidation disclosure.
The GMC said its analysis of the allegations ‘does not suggest this increase is driven by issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic’.
It also said there had been a rise in anonymous disclosures compared to the previous year, with 17 disclosures made by doctors, 10 by other healthcare professionals and 16 made anonymously.
It said: ‘Some complainants made disclosures anonymously as they were fearful of repercussions and there has been an increase in the number of anonymous disclosures compared to the same period in 2019/20.
‘This shows there is still some way to go in improving a culture that supports raising and acting on concerns.’
Anna Rowland, the GMC’s assistant director for policy and business transformation, said: ‘It is reassuring that doctors and other healthcare professionals feel secure enough to raise concerns to the GMC. We may be moving through the pandemic, but pressures and challenging working environments remain, and it important to stress that we take whistleblowing disclosures very seriously.
‘Whistleblowers need to feel that they will be supported if they speak up. We have a confidential helpline for those concerned about patient safety, and guidance for doctors on raising and acting on concerns.’
Across the other sectors in the report, the NMC reported that whistleblowing disclosures had almost doubled in the sector, with 192 disclosures of information over the period.
This was predominantly due to the pandemic, with a third of disclosures related to Covid-19.
However, the GPhC reported only five disclosures of information during the period, two of which are ongoing.
Earlier this year, the National Guardian’s Office said that GP practices and other primary care organisations should develop local networks to support whistleblowing after a review found that some primary care staff face barriers to speaking up.