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Patient complaint? What would Dr Jack Bauer do...

‘So it’s just like 24,’ the news editor said, as I tried to explain the latest GPC guidance on how to handle patient complaints. ‘And the GP plays Jack Bauer.’

By Steve Nowottny

‘So it's just like 24,' the news editor said, as I tried to explain the latest GPC guidance on how to handle patient complaints. ‘And the GP plays Jack Bauer.'

Well… not exactly. If a junior PCT manager complains about your opening hours, you probably shouldn't take them hostage. Going on the run because the waiting room's full of worried well really isn't acceptable. And summarily kneecapping Little Miss I-Know-My-Rights is definitely out.

But on the timing issue, how fast GPs should be aiming to deal with complaints, GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman's considered advice to the troops was – and I paraphrase – what would Jack do?

Pulse has already reported in some detail concerns over how the new complaints procedures, which comes into effect on 1 April, will hand far more power to PCTs. But the message from last week's GPC meeting was that there would be some benefit for GPs as well.

The best news? Resolve a verbal complaint within 24 hours and it won't have to be recorded as an official complaint at all.

As Dr Buckman put it: ‘If practices deal with what patients say is wrong within a day that doesn't have to be recorded as a complaint. Deal with it now. Sort it out today. Don't go to bed on it.' Dammit Chloe. There's no time.

And the best way to defuse the situation? Well, saying sorry costs nothing.

‘Defence bodies always tell you to apologise - an apology is not an acknowledgement of anything,' said Dr Buckman. ‘If you sort it out today and the patient's happy, you've just got a satisfied customer.'

But wait a minute. Apologise? Jack Bauer? The scourge of terrorists? The saviour of the nation? The only man alive who can allegedly get a McDonald's breakfast after 10.30am?

Confronted by yet another suspect who would really prefer to be interviewed on a Saturday morning when he doesn't have to take time off work and can't believe how much CTU agents earn anyway – well, it's safe to say Jack Bauer wouldn't apologise.

No, I told the news editor. It's nothing like 24.

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Jack Bauer: history of torture and going to ground means he's a poor role model for GP complaints handling, although ability to sort major problems within 24 hours a plus point Jack Bauer

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