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CCGs could handle complaints about GPs in future

NHS England is considering allowing CCGs to handle patient complaints about GPs, after a parliamentary committee criticised the current system.

In a new report on complaints and raising concerns in the NHS, the House of Commons Health Committee said there were instances of primary care complaints from Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly which are now passed to a call centre in Leeds and dealt with by a commissioning support unit in NW London.

The group of MPs said this example, submitted in written evidence to the body, ‘illustrates the opportunity for confusion, dissatisfaction of service users, unacceptable delays and breakdowns in working relationships’.

In response, NHS England said it is ‘prepared to design’ a different approach to complaints management in partnership with CCGs as part of the move to co-commissioning.

The MPs’ report said: ‘The committee is concerned about the effects of centralising complaint handling in primary care by NHS England. We do not believe that primary care complaints should be investigated in a different region. This has led to fragmentation and disconnection from local knowledge and impaired the ability to deliver a timely response and learn from complaints.

‘We recommend NHS England reports on progress on providing a primary care complaints system that is responsive to patients in a timely manner and which results in local learning and improvement.’

Responding to the committee’s concerns within the report, NHS England’s director for improving patient experience Neil Churchill said the committee’s point was ‘well made’ and that NHS England was ‘open to ideas’ about how it could handle complaints differently to benefit patients.

He added that ‘this will need to be in the context of the further 15% cut in our running costs from next April, which will inevitably mean reductions in the number of staff in our local teams’ but that co-commissioning by CCGs may provide the solution.

He said: ‘It may be the case, for example, that the greater involvement of CCGs in complaints will help drive improvements in clinical practice or the administrative systems used by GPs, dentists and optometrists. As you know, NHS England is currently exploring co-commissioning of primary care with CCGs and as part of that we are certainly prepared to design, pilot and evaluate a different approach to complaints management in partnership with a CCG, or a cluster of CCGs. This will enable us to measure levels of patient satisfaction, learning from complaints and value for money against our existing models of delivery.’