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GP regulators consider complaints ‘hub’ for patients

Regulators are in talks over over developing a new central complaints ‘hub’ to make it easier and simpler for patients to complain about NHS services, Pulse has learnt.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has met with the GMC and the CQC to discuss a central complaints ‘hub’ as their research found patients did not know where to go to complain about NHS services.

The ombudsman proposed a centralised Health Complaints Hub for England at last month’s Regulator’s Forum, a monthly ‘catch up’ meeting where information between the major regulatory bodies is exchanged,

They said this was because research carried out to inform their strategy for 2013 to 2018 found that patients did not know where to go to make a complaint.

The Ombudsman said that as discussions were in early stages, they could not give more details about the proposal or how it would affect complaints against GPs.

Last year the Health Ombudsman claimed GPs may not be fit to take on commissioning responsibilities after complaints about patients being ‘unfairly’ dismissed from practices rose for a second year. However, Pulse revealed that GMC figures showed that only two of nearly a 100 cases where GPs were accused of ‘unfairly’ removing patients from their practice list over the past four years resulted in any further regulatory action.

A spokesperson for the Ombudsman said the hub was one of a wide range of proposals suggested to improve the complaints system for patients.

They said: ‘Many people did not know where to go with their complaints. We discussed this research with others in the Regulator’s Forum and agreed that we would look in more detail at the confusion that complainants currently experience, and what this might tell us about ways in which the complaints system could be made simpler and easier for patients to enter and then navigate.

‘We are going to look at a wide range of possible improvements, including how current systems could be made to work more seamlessly and closely together as well as the pluses and minuses of bigger change and what would need to happen to make that work. This research will inform any recommendation that we make to improve the current complaints system.’

A CQC spokesperson said: ‘The complaints hub is the Ombudsman’s project. We are currently involved in a working group to discuss what it might do, look like and structures. It is therefore too early to say [whether we are committed]’

Dr Richard Vautrey, a GPC negotiator said a centralised hub could simplify the complaints process for patients and GPs, and mean GPs won’t receive announcements about complaints from a range of organisations.

He said: ‘We’d need to understand the details about this. There is a lot of confusion for patients about where to go to complain. With increasing fragmentation of NHS services this is only likely to get worse. A lot aren’t aware the Ombudsman exists.

‘It’s an interesting proposal. GPs would want to avoid multiple organisations receiving complaints about them, so if this streamlines the process and action over complaints is applied with proportionality, then it could simplify things for patients and GPs.’