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Number of written complaints against GPs continues to rise

The number of written complaints relating to primary care services, including GP and dental practices, have continued to rise.

NHS Digital data for England showed that there were 94,637 written complaints in 2017/18, compared to 90,579 in 2016/17.

This represents a 4.5% year-on-year increase, and - following a sharp increase in the previous year - a 14.6% increase in the number of complaints compared with 2015/16.

Around half of last year's complaints were not upheld (50.4%), whilst 36.4% were fully upheld and the remainder partially upheld.

The data also showed:

  • Around 83.1% of the complaints related to GP surgeries and 14.6% to dental surgeries.
  • Across England, patients most likely to complain were aged 26-55 (45.6% of all complaints were patient age was known).
  • The largest proportion of complaints related to practitioners (GPs or dentists), at 44.2%, followed by administrative staff at 25% (similar proportions to the previous year.
  • 17.7% of all primary care complaints related to 'clinical treatment' (18.2% in 2016/17), 14.8% to 'communications’ (16.0% in 2016/17) and 11.3% to 'staff attitude/behaviours/values' (11.9% in 2016/17).
  • Cumbria and North East recorded the highest levels of complaints relating to practitioners (48.0%) and Central Midlands recorded the lowest (40.9%).

The NHS as a whole, also including secondary care, reported receiving 208,626 written complaints during 2017/18 – 0.1% more than the previous year.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Robert Behrens said: 'NHS staff are working under immense pressure. It is a credit to them that the data does not show a significant increase in complaints overall.

'The NHS complaints process is an essential channel to improving public services and we encourage people to speak up when things go wrong.

'We owe it to the NHS’s dedicated and skilled workforce to talk about mistakes in an open and transparent way enabling organisations to learn from them, make improvements and ensure they are not repeated.'

 

 

 

 

Readers' comments (10)

  • The NHS complaints service has made this situation.
    If you underfund us and under-resource the surgery and then ask us to do more work from secondary care, of course the punters will be unhappy. The problem is the individual is being blamed for this, when it is a systemic issue.
    The second issue is the demands that are placed on GP-land are excessive and inappropriate - this demand and the blame/complaints culture has led to this, and certainly has been a factor in many people leaving the country (i too am intending to)

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  • 'The NHS complaints process is an essential channel to improving public services and we encourage people to speak up when things go wrong.'

    I wonder if there is any evidence for this statement at all? All I can see is scant resources being sucked into an ever growing industry leaching off malcontents. Doctors are being made so unhappy that they kill themselves. The public are whipped up into ever more toxic flame wars over the latest NHS scandal. NHS staff are prosecuted for things beyond their control that are often related to never-ending cuts to services.

    It would be better for everyone if all the complaint handlers were rolled into one agency with targets to complete investigations and resolve issues in clearly limited time-frames. The current situation is precisely the opposite, with perverse incentives to drag things out for as long as possible with many corrupt snouts in the trough. Everyone losses except for the lawyers...

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  • QB you are right, but one only has to look at our zooming indemnity fees to realise that the big winners are our "champions": :https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/23/bosses-of-unions-defending-doctors-accused-of-negligence-paid-al/

    The big bonanza for lawyers came a few years ago when the law of "multiple defendants" was passed, allowing unscrupulous "no win - no fee" cowboys to sue more than one defendant. In other words, although the plaintiff targets only one person in the practice, their lawyers are allowed also to sue the practice itself, the secretary, the partners and you name it. The lawyers know there is no chance of winning all the claims, but they do not care, because they make their money NOT by having a share of a possible compensation, but chiefly by racking up charges with an endless correspondence, so that even if they lose the case and the claimant ends with nothing, the law firm makes enormous profits.
    Defence organisations are aware of the situation, but why should they do anything about it if they stand to boost their profits? As things stand, the only guarantee winners are litigation lawyers, and lawyers and administrators of the doctors' defence. The inevitable losers are the doctors.

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  • CK

    I agree with what my colleagues have said so far , sadly this is the culture we are now living in and there is little we can do about it. NHSE will investigate any complaint deemed clinically unworthy by the GMC adding another layer of bureaucracy , not counting of course the Ombudsman/ PALS and your local CCG. Having a single governing body responsible for all complaints would avoid duplication and minimise grief for everyone involve.

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  • I'd like to say easy to solve, but clearly the solutions are not lol dispense with socialised medicine. A service that does not cost an individual directly is not valued. itemised billing also ensures pple know what they are paying for. lastly, allow counter-suing for libel/damages/legal expenses/compensation when complaints/suits are not upheld or are groundless. alternatively, legal expenses for cases successfully defended are covered by the claimant. Based on the odds above, roughly 80k complaints a yr, approx. 2 complaints per GP, 1 of which would be not upheld.

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  • Step back and read the pathetic letters our MDOs 'advise' us to write. Full of apologies and guilt trips and information on how they can take their complaint further. When the patient sees these, they do not usually drop the complaint. They push it further as they see it as a admission of guilt.

    12.15 is dead right when he says they do this to furnish business for themselves.

    You do not have to send these lettesr. Re write them to suit yourself and remove some of the weaselly, pathetic comments they want us to use to debase ourselves. It is not a condition of your indemnity to send their letters word for word.

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  • Now ....please can we have a breakup of these complaints ....I bet BME doctors are again best placed to receive them !

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  • This is what happens when as a profession we have come to tolerate the 10 minute consultation time frame.

    Which professional gives a client 10 minutes, and also gets paid less than a plumber per hour.

    Its all our fault.

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  • I agree with what’s been said especially the comment 3:35pm about apologising non stop. I’m still fuming about NHSE who upheld a complaint because I didn’t personally help a patient up from his seat in the.waiting room. 1) I was 10+ metres away 2) the young gentleman sitting next to him helped him briefly 3) he has a history of physical violence to our staff 4) he’s 20 stone 5) he’d never needed help before and regular attender and took about 3 sec before help offered 6) called me a c**t in the waiting room (not the first time). NHSE asked for no details whatsoever but upheld it and criticised my written response as not enough ‘sorries’. No history of mental health issues. I’m sorry, but why do I need to endlessly apologise, after tolerating numerous abuses from him? Ironically, following the complaint, he reattended and I made a verbal gesture to offer help out of the chair - response ‘No need, I’m way too heavy for your help anyway’. Got up unaided. Clearly in a better mood that day!

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  • @ Meg

    I am afraid you talk about it all very passively,i would expect you all to be very very unhappy about the one sided NHSE response.

    We are currently just dissatisfied, that is the problem...you folks still dont get it do you?

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