The rise in the use of social media has contributed to a doubling of complaints against doctors in five years, it is reported.

Negative press coverage and a decline in "deference" towards them from patients has also led to the soaring number of complaints, which rose from 5,168 in 2007 to 10,347 in 2012.

The General Medical Council, which regulates all doctors in the UK, commissioned researchers from Plymouth University to investigate the rise, and the GMC said there was no evidence of falling standards across the profession.

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Researchers instead found social media such as Facebook and Twitter meant patients could better discuss their experiences of the medical profession and share information.

The report found patients were better informed about their health and had higher expectations of doctors and were less deferential towards them than in the past. Patients were also more likely to complain.

Negative press coverage of the medical profession was also seen to have sparked a surge in complaints, with people emboldened to contact the GMC after seeing others may have shared their grievances.

But it also fuelled a rise in complaints not relevant to the GMC, and which should have been made to other medical bodies.