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Ombudsman advises GPs to apologise more

The parliamentary and health service ombudsman has recommended that GPs get better at apologising to patients when they complain.

The recommendation is one of five published in a new report on the handling of complaints against GPs, following an analysis by the ombudsman, which concluded one in 10 complaints are handled ’inadequately’ by practices.

The ombudsman reviewed 137 patients complaints about GP practices investigated by her own office, NHS England and the CQC, finding that although more than half of the cases were either good (46%) or outstanding, a third required improvement (36%) and a tenth were inadequate (10%).

In response, ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor’s report An Opportunity to Improve advises practices to:

  1. Do more to encourage a listening culture by encouraging patients to give feedback, and express concerns and complaints;
  2. Ensure practice staff have understanding of complaints regulations and guard against removing patients from their lists without following such regulations;
  3. Be professional and ensure patients are kept up to date with how their complaint is being processed;
  4. Apologise where appropriate and be open and honest when things go wrong;
  5. Learn from mistakes and share their experiences with other practices.

Dame Julie said that although, at 31%, the uphold rate for complaints against GPs is lower than for other parts of the NHS, ’it is still vital that GP practices are open to feedback and complaints, in order to bring all practices up to the level of the best’.

She said: ’GPs are under pressure and need support to deal with complaints. We are pleased that NHS England have committed to ensuring that all practices have staff who are trained to handle complaints, which is essential to provide a good public service.

’We also want CCGs, LMCs and NHS England to share lessons from complaints at a local level.’

CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field said: ‘Patients have every right to feel listened to and reassured that what they report will be acted upon. This is what they deserve and what we look for on our inspections.’

Readers' comments (36)

  • Azeem Majeed

    Message to Julie Mellor and Steve Field: How about funding general practice adequately so that we can improve access, spend more time with patients, provide higher quality of care, and get fewer complaints.

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  • ...Instead of planning to take yet more money out of practices to throw at CQC.

    Complaints that reach the ombudsman are a select group and should not be used as an analysis of handling of complaints generally.

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  • I apologise for being a gp .

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  • 10.23 -apologies are not enough , have you paid your penance yet?

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  • Do the PHSO have any idea how little the average GP knows about them or cares about what they say?

    Completely irrelevant organisation.

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  • Because there are so many struggling to avoid general practice they chuck more well thought through sh!t ideas at us!!!

    'Druid healer' called in by Brittany villages lacking doctors
    Mayors of six villages give 'ancestral healer' a town hall office after failing to convince a doctor to move to rural area on the coast of western France

    The 'Druid healer' will operate from an office in the town hall of La Roche-Derrien
    By David Chazan, Paris
    5:38PM GMT 17 Mar 2016 Daily Telegraph
    A “Druid faith healer” has been called in by the local authorities of six Brittany villages, frustrated by their failure to find a doctor willing to move to the area.
    In an approach reminiscent of the Asterix character ‘Psychoanalytix’, the Druid will offer natural remedies using plants, stones and breathing exercises — but no magic potion. Operating from an office in the town hall of La Roche-Derrien, which has a population of just over 1,000, he gives his first consultation on Friday.
    The mayor, Jean-Louis Even, said repeated advertisements for a GP to serve the area, which suffers from a chronic shortage of doctors, had failed to attract a single application from a medical practitioner. However, it did elicit a response from the 'ancestral healer', Gwénael Trochet.
    “We were pretty wary at first but we agreed to see him,” Mr Even said. “Mr Trochet explained that he helped people suffering from stress and fatigue. He seemed experienced and sensible and he made a favourable impression.”
    Mr Even and the mayors of five other nearby villages decided to make an office available for him once a week. Patients will pay €25 (£20) for each consultation.
    “We’re still looking for one or several doctors to come here but meanwhile we have the right to change options,” Mr Even said. He admitted the move was partly to draw attention to the plight of the villages in the hope of attracting a GP to the area.
    “We’re sounding the alarm by resorting to ancestral remedies. This ought to be a great area for a doctor to work. We’ve got beaches, a cinema and a skating rink but no traffic jams.”
    Mr Trochet, who was pictured in a local newspaper wearing a pendant around his neck, sunglasses and a black leather jacket, said he had been given a one-month trial and hoped to move permanently to the area.
    “I can’t replace a doctor but as a Druid I have ancestral knowledge of natural remedies and the healing properties of plants and stones,” Mr Trochet, 47.
    He said he had cured about 100 people suffering from stress-related ailments since he started practising in 1993. “I begin by talking to patients and analysing their respiration to make a diagnosis of their body.
    "I’m a very good listener and I try to develop solutions together with the patient. I often suggest breathing exercises.”

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  • Actually - if one reads the report - it seems that the ombuds(wo)man felt that GP practices were pretty good at responding to complaints. (Remember she is dealing with the relatively small number who make complaints about complaints and who meet quite strict criteria for her involvement.)

    The underlying advice - to say that one is sorry that the patient has been so upset and that one regrets that they feel things went badly - is hardly earth shattering and is basic common sense for any organisation that has to deal with the great British public. It they don't get their pound of flesh through the practice's complaints procedure they can move on to lawyers, journalists and the GMC (which will of course lead to the GP being genuinely very regretful about it all!)

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  • Maybe the politicians should start apologising more too.

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  • Do not become a GP. Do not become a doctor. Do Engineering, accountancy, finance,law.
    No apologies there. Not ever.
    Medicine in the UK is the pits.
    Prof Field,CQC,GMC, Ombudsman,NHSE, Medical defence, complaints,dumping.
    Just do not become a GP. Unless you want to apologise all the time for a lack of time because everything is dumped on you.
    This is multiple, multiple jeopardy. You work 14 hours without rest, you make mistakes due to the system and you spend your life apologizing.
    Never mind. i give up and go.

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  • interesting that HSJ is campaigning for her to be sacked

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