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NHS watchdog has upped game on complaints

Your article ‘Complaints revamp will fail GPs' (Comment, 2 August) raises concerns that the Healthcare Commission has not undertaken enough panel reviews while resolving second-stage complaints.

I would like to explain that, unlike the old process, the commission is not limited to panel hearings as a means of resolving complaints.

Under the old system only about 300 complaints a year were heard by a panel – the commission investigates more than 8,000.

As a first step, those investigations assess how well a complaint was handled by the health service and whether a reasonable response has been provided. Nearly one-third are referred to the health service provider for further action.

The commission seeks independent expert clinical advice where necessary (5,000 cases last year) and its staff bring independence to bear on the investigation – previously only provided by a panel.

There were delays initially, but now the average age of cases being closed is four months.

The commission endorses the need for improved local resolution of complaints but while it retains a second-stage function it remains committed to the independent review of the cases brought to it.

Marcia Fry, head of operational development, Healthcare Commission

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