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Independents' Day

GPs face patient complaints over shielding and PPE

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has expressed concern that GPs are facing an unexpectedly large number of complaints despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

It said it has been notified by members of over 300 complaints since the UK went into lockdown but said this would be the tip of the iceberg - with complaints including patients being unhappy with aspects of the shielding process, or that PPE made communication difficult.

In response, the doctors' defence organisation has urged the public to consider the additional pressures that complaints will put on the health service.

Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU head of advisory services said: ‘We’re really surprised about how many complaints about the pandemic our members have asked for our support with and the types of issues being raised during this short period. Complaints numbers are a little down on what we’d normally see, but we expected a bigger drop given the public’s grateful recognition of the incredibly challenging circumstances our members are working in.’  

The MDU listed examples of complaints related to Covid-19, many of which were against GPs, as:

  • Patients being unhappy about aspects of the shielding process.
  • Prescriptions for non-essential medication.
  • Patients unhappy not to be able to see a doctor in person for a minor existing condition.
  • Complaints about the doctor’s manner during phone consultations such as not addressing the patient correctly, lack of clarity or not enough information provided.
  • That PPE made communication difficult or that it was not worn or was inadequate.

Dr Fryar added: ‘We are concerned about the additional pressures on our members at a time of extraordinary upheaval when it’s far from business as usual. Even if complaints don’t need an immediate response during the pandemic, they’re diverting doctors’ attention and can cause additional stress for medical professionals. They and their colleagues need to be allowed to concentrate on providing a safe service for all patients.’

The news comes as a group of MPs, led by Dr Philippa Whitford, has called for the Government to appoint an expert committee to set out clear medico-legal guidance relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Readers' comments (15)

  • Complaining costs diddly. Responding to a complaint, well that’s another matter...

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  • Another reason for me to stay in Oz.....

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  • If patients are complaining about conditions imposed on us as a consequence of a pandemic starting in China, perhaps withdrawal of services might help reduce complaints..... no service= no complaints ...simples........

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  • I have some sympathy. I am a retired GP and have had 16 weeks of severe neck pain and some loss of muscle use in my arm. I couldn't get a face to face consultationat all. I had to go private in the end. I now have prolapsed cervical discs and nerve damage which is likely to be permanent resulting in a partially paralysed arm. It felt like services for serious but not life threatening conditions just stopped.

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  • The GMC has systematically encouraged the complaints culture. While some may be genuine, the vast majority are just vexatious and pathetic. A doctor is typically held guilty until proved otherwise. Ethnic minority doctors bear the brunt particularly from patients as well as the NHS establishment and the GMC. Racism is rife in NHS. In summary, NHS is a sick orgnaization. It needs to introspect. Patients who make malicious complaints should receive significant and deterrent penalties.

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  • so NHSE when are you going to stop the complaints about covid related issues and divert them all to your head office, reducing the strain on your workforce who have done all the work and in 11 cases, sadly sacrificed their lives in doing so.when patients start sueing GPs for delayed cancer diagnoses, then watch GPs just walk away. you have been warned.

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  • We are so supine over complaints. They are incorrectly judged to be a useful feedback mechanism to improve performance. However Doctors personalities are often particularly vulnerable to complaint and we have all seen doctors made anxious and depressed over them.They also induce over defensive medicine. Some complaints are genuinely valid and should be treated professionally and met with some soul searching however a good majority are trivial or vexatious and should be met with a robust response.
    We have become emasculated by the likes of the GMC, the CQC and NHE England and it is time to fight back.

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  • The less available you are, the less you offer, the less you interact with 'them'...then the more respect you will attain. It is the lesson of life. No interaction, no complaint.

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  • NHSE encourage complaints. It distracts the patients from a failing health service and keeps the pen pushers in a job pretending the under resourced under staffed service will improve. I was just asked to review if the patient needed an ultrasound scan I ordered in November 2019 to see if they still need it. Incredible. In other countries, people just move to the next doc if they don't like it and not waste time.

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  • PATIENTS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AN UNGRATEFUL BLOODY LOT----HOPE YOU DIDN'T THINK COVID-19 WOULD CHANGE THAT

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