Wrongly accused doctors complain against patient agency

When the agency of patients' rights and complaints, Patientombuddet, makes errors due to lax procedure, it has serious consequences for the doctors and patients involved, according to Mads Koch Hansen, head of the national medical association Lægeforeningen.

"Some of the errors are so serious that I'm puzzled as to how they can even take place," he told DR Nyheder. "They can have serious consequences for both doctors and patients."

Since 2004, hospitals have been required to register errors to Patientombuddet but doctors now react to incidents in which someone in the health sector has been wrongly accused by the agency.

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For instance, one doctor received an official reprimand for inappropriate behaviour even though she wasn't working on the day the alleged incident had taken place. Another episode involved a specialist who received a complaint about another doctor that included confidential information about a patient.

"Criticism obviously affects you a lot," Hansen said. "And unwarranted criticism is really a stain on your professional competence. The errors can have significant consequences for each doctor's future career." 

The head of the medical association added that he didn’t know how many mistakes there have been in the 5,000 cases Patientombuddet handles each year.

Careless and irrelevant
Lægeforeningen has called for the parliamentary ombudsman to start an investigation of Patientombuddet.

"We are losing our patience in the way the cases are being handled," Hansen said.

Besides unwarranted criticism of doctors, the agency is being accused of missing case processing deadlines, using irrelevant expert opinions and careless handling of patients' personal information.

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While the head of Patientombuddet, Steffen Egesborg Hansen, apologised for the specific incidents Lægeforeningen mentioned, he sees them as exceptions and disagrees that the agency is flawed.

"Lægeforeningen has found examples of what they see as mistakes in our case handling, but I definitely do not agree that they are full of mistakes," he told DR Nyheder. "Patients can be certain that we always favour their legal security."

The parliamentary ombudsman will now have to decide if an investigation of Patientombuddet is necessary.