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GPs hit back at ‘soaring’ patient complaint claims

By Lilian Anekwe

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman has hit back at claims made in a national newspaper that ‘soaring numbers’ of patients are complaining about poor GP services.

A report in today’s Daily Mail claims complaints against GPs have risen by 10% in just a year, with nearly 40,000 patients complaining in 2008/9.

Much of the rise, the paper says, has occurred since GPs were handed a new contract which relieved them of responsibility for out of hours patient care in 2004, suggesting that ‘this fall in the amount of work they are carrying out has damaged patient care.’

The last set of figures on NHS complaints, published by the NHS Information Centre in November, show a total of 48,597 patients complained about all aspects of general practice health service – including 8,909 complaints regarding poor dental practice – in 2008/9.

39,688, or 82%, of these complaints related to clinical general practice, administration and other miscellaneous GP complaints.

If the ratio of complaints about general and dental practice has remained the same, this would mean a 10% increase on 2007/8 – although a spokesperson for the NHS Information Centre insisted there was ‘absolutely no reason’ to believe this assumption is true.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said it was important to put the figures in the context of the 300 million annual GP consultations.

He added: ‘It’s difficult to draw conclusions about why there’s been a rise in complaints in the last ten years. It could be that practices are seeing more patients so, despite an increase in the numbers, the proportion of complaints hasn’t actually changed significantly.’

‘Or it could be that there is a greater willingness to complain compared to ten years ago. It’s difficult to know what has caused the rise in 2008-9 as for the five years before then complaints had remained pretty static, though it is possible targets have played some part.’

GPs hit back at ‘soaring’ patient complaint claims