New complaints plan 'offensive to GPs'
By Nerys Hairon
Government proposals to reform the NHS complaints procedure are 'biased against doctors' and 'offensive' to the profession, the GPC says.
In an furious attack, GPC negotiators said the plans would encourage 'ill-founded and vexatious' complaints and would be 'extremely damaging' to GPs.
The criticisms came in the GPC's response to draft Department of Health regulations on complaints reform.
The new procedures would allow patients to complain directly to primary care trusts, double the time limit to lodge a complaint from six months to a year, and put independent review panels in the hands
of the Commission for
Health Audit and Improvement (CHAI).
The GPC's response argued the regulations had 'a completely misplaced tendentiousness that the profession will find at best puzzling and at worst offensive'.
GPC chair Dr John Chis-holm warned the department not to 'underestimate the strength of feeling' the plans had provoked among GPs.
He added the draft regulations showed 'a bias against doctors' as practices have to respond to complaints initially within two working days, whereas CHAI has 10 days.
'GPs will understandably feel bewildered and angry at CHAI being granted more time to respond than they are,' Dr Chisholm said.
The right for patients to complain directly to their PCT could lead to 'a protracted and complex dispute between PCT and practice', he warned, especially as many practices would hold private law contracts from April.
The Medical Protection Society said reforms could lead to a doubling in the number
of cases going to independent review.
Recent complaints statistics showed 97.4 per cent of cases were resolved at local level.
Dr Gerri McKeever, a former GP in Rochester in Kent, has quit after she was forced to attend an independent review panel for telling a patient not to call her practice nurse 'a bitch'.
She said: 'There are patients who are recurrently making complaints and these are vexatious and they destroy morale. Many doctors feel the system is unfair and biased against the doctor.'