List payment errors still not rectified
The Healthcare Com- mission is failing to deal with one in five complaints within its own deadlines because it cannot cope with soaring cases.
Latest figures from the commission show 19 per cent of complaints have been waiting longer than six months the limit set in its service level agreement with the NHS. Of these, 8 per cent are more than eight months old.
The statistics also revealed the number of complaints being referred to the commission is continuing to rocket.
Some 922 new cases were reported in March, up from 743 in February and more than twice as many as expected.
Since it took over the second stage of complaints handling last August, the commission has received nearly 6,000 cases, compared with an expected level of 3,200. One complaint in four has been about a GP.
The commission has attacked PCTs for failing to handle enough cases locally and pressed for the worst-offending trusts to be punished.
GPC chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said 'post-Shipman par-anoia' among PCT managers was to blame for the rise.
'They are absolutely petrified that if they don't handle complaints properly all sorts of things will happen, so they simply pass the buck,' he said.
'The threshold for making complaints has gone down and so has the threshold for PCTs passing them on.'
The commission named East Cheshire PCT as the trust which had referred the most cases 28. The trust said it did not recognise the figure.
Dr Peter Madden, secretary of South Cheshire LMC, said he was amazed the commission could not handle the volume of complaints. 'Should we be naming and shaming it? It's a bit like the pot calling the kettle black,' he added.
By Ian Cameron