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CQC tells patients to complain about GP care to improve services

The healthcare inspector is encouraging patients to complain about their experiences of GP care if they have concerns, in order to improve services.

The CQC said almost 7m patients who have accessed health or social care services in the last five years had concerns about their care, but never raised them, and more than half (58%) regret not doing so.

Its chief executive said the majority of services ‘really appreciate this feedback’ and the complaints help them to improve.

The findings come as part of CQC-commissioned research and found that when patients did complain, two-thirds (66%) saw their issue resolved and the service in question improved.

The research – carried out in November and December last year with just over 2,000 people – is part of a new campaign which calls on patients to ‘Declare Your Care’, in order to improve standards.

It found most people who complained reportedly did so out of a desire to make sure care improved for others, including wanting to improve the care they/a loved one received (61%) and improve care for everyone using the service (55%).

However, over a quarter of patients complained in the hope of an apology or explanation (26%).

The CQC research also reported:

  • The most common reasons for not raising a concern were not knowing how (20%) or who (33%) to raise it with, not wanting to be seen as a ‘troublemaker’ (33%) and worries about not being taken seriously (28%)
  • Over a third of people (37%) felt that nothing would change as a result
  • The main reasons given for raising, or wanting to raise a concern, were delays to a service or appointment, lack of information and poor patient care
  • Over a fifth indicated that they have raised or wanted to raise concerns about the lack of communication between health and care services

Last year, official figures showed the number of complaints relating to primary care services, including GPs, are on the rise with a 4.5% year-on-year increase.

CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm said: ‘We know that when people raise a concern they have a genuine desire to improve the service for themselves and others. We also know that the majority of services really appreciate this feedback and make positive changes, as this new research shows.’

‘Everyone can play a part in improving care by directly giving feedback to services, or by sharing information and experiences with us so that we can take action when we find poor care. Sharing your experience also enables us to highlight the many great examples of care we see,’ he added.

State for Care minister Caroline Dinenage said: ‘We want the NHS and social care system to provide the safest, most compassionate care in the world. This means encouraging patients to speak up with concerns, ensuring we act on them and learning from what happened so we can do better in future.

‘That’s why I encourage anyone who has concerns over their care, or the care of loved ones, to share their experiences with the CQC – so they can continue their vital work of protecting patients and improving the excellent care we see across the health service.’

BMA GP Committee executive team member Dr Farah Jameel said: ‘The vast majority of people in England receive a good quality of care and this is to be celebrated. General practice in particular continues to perform far higher than any other sector.

‘Good healthcare delivery relies on all parts of the system to function together in a way that works for the patient, and processes are always being refined to suit patients’ needs. We would always encourage patients to feedback any concerns they have so that these can be addressed and services improved.’

Medical Protection education services lead Dr Pallavi Bradshaw said: ‘The culture in healthcare should be one of learning, both from adverse incidents and near misses with doctors confident to acknowledge error without fear.

‘But dealing with complaints can be an emotionally stressful time and this is why we work with members to provide advice and support as well as education and practical tools which help with communication following an adverse event.

‘A lot can also be learnt from positive patient experiences and successful outcomes and we would encourage patients to feedback on those experiences too.’

This comes after GP burnout expert Professor Clare Gerada claimed ‘complaints kill doctors’ last year, and called for more support for doctors facing a patient complaint.