A new report from the General Medical Council (GMC) reveals that many patients are unsure how to raise concerns about poor medical care and that more needs to be done to help them.

The report also revealed that doctors reported more concerns about their colleagues in 2012. This highlights a welcome change of culture in the medical profession where doctors are more willing to raise concerns about poor medical practice.

The findings come in the GMC’s third annual State of Medical Education and Practice report, which provides a picture of the medical profession in the UK, looks at major trends and identifies some of the challenges facing doctors.

The number of complaints against doctors has been growing since 2007, a trend which continued in 2012. The GMC received 8,109 complaints last year – up 24% since 2011 and a rise of over 100% since 2007.

The increase in complaints does not mean that standards of medical practice are falling. The report argues that higher patient expectations and greater willingness of other doctors to raise concerns could account for the rise.

Most complaints (62%) came from members of the public. However, because many complaints made to the GMC by members of the public should be investigated locally, just one in five of these met the GMC’s criteria for a full investigation.

In 2012, the GMC investigated 989 complaints from the public – more than the number for doctors and employers combined. However the report argues that more needs to be done to help patients understand where to go to make a complaint, and that raising concerns about poor care and treatment should be made much easier.

The full report can be found on the GMC web site The state of medical education and practice in the UK: 2013.