The Medical Defence Union has said there is no evidence of a fall in medical standards after a new report showed a rise in complaints about doctors.
The MDU said only a small number of doctors are falling seriously short of the standards expected of them and the vast majority of complaints are resolved without the need for a fitness to practise hearing.
The General Medical Council said there were 8,781 complaints in 2011 compared to 7,153 in 2010. Complaints are up 69% in the last three years.
The MDU said the GMC's report points out that doctors consistently top polls of the most trusted profession in the UK.
Dr Catherine Wills, medico-legal adviser at the MDU said:
"While the rise in complaints to the GMC will be concerning for doctors and patients alike, it is worth remembering that very few complaints result in action being taken against the doctor's registration.
"Although our own figures show that we are assisting more doctors with GMC investigations, members can be confident in the expertise of all those at the MDU who assist and support doctors though this stressful process.
"We agree with the GMC that the rise in complaints does not indicate a decline in medical standards. The GMC says the increase may be due to 'greater expectations, an increased willingness to complain, less tolerance of poor practice within the profession and media attention for high profile cases'.
"There is much food for thought in the report however, particularly about the reasons patients complain. In particular, there has been a rise in complaints alleging communication problems and lack of respect. In the MDU's experience, problems with communication are often at the heart of complaints, for example where patients feel they were not clearly warned about complications that arise from their treatment."
The new figures reveal that the likelihood that the GMC will investigate a doctor increased from one in 68 in 2010 to one in 64 in 2011.
Most complaints in the last year have come from members of the public - and although many are not about matters which call into question the doctor's fitness to practise, some are serious and require a full investigation.
Among these complaints there was a significant rise in concerns about how doctors interacted with their patients – allegations about communication increased by 69% and lack of respect rose by 45%.
"It is important to listen to patients concerns, share information with them in a way they can understand and give them a chance to ask questions," said Dr Wills.
"It is particularly important to be honest and open with patients when things have gone wrong and to apologise."