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Fears £1m may be cut from complaint handling budget

The Healthcare Commission has voiced fears that the Department of Health is to cut £1 million from its budget for handling complaints.

Minutes from a recent commission meeting indicate it intends to warn the department that any cut would worsen already significant delays.

The commission has been deluged with cases since taking over the independent review stage of the complaints process in April 2004. More than 1,100 current complaints against doctors and NHS bodies have been outstanding for longer than its six-month target.

Commission minutes stated that a £1 million cut would double the size of the backlog and leave doctors and patients waiting longer for a resolution.

GPs and the commission itself have attacked PCTs for failing to deal with complaints at a local level, causing the huge increase in cases being escalated.

The commission has set new targets from April to resolve 65 per cent of cases within two months, 85 per cent within six months and more complicated cases within a year.

But these would be impossible if its budgets was cut. A spokeswoman said the minutes related to a 'general discussion' about budgets next year and no specific cut had been imposed.

Marcia Fry, head of operational development at the commission, said a wait of six months was 'too long for patients whose complaint could be dealt with much more quickly'.

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