The number of new written complaints about practices in England has decreased by almost 5% in the space of 12 months, meaning 3,500 fewer were made this year.
The drop – from 75,782 in 2017/18 to 72,356 in 2018/19 – represents a return to around the same level of new complaints recorded in 2016/17, when there were 72,668.
The data, from NHS Digital, also shows the proportion of complaints made against general practice that were upheld in full has gone down – from 36% last year, to 34% in 2018/19.
However, complaints that were partially upheld have risen in number, from 14.5% 2017/18 to 16.5% in 2018/19.
Meanwhile, 49% of complaints were not upheld in 2018/9 – the same as the previous year.
Most complaints in general practice in the past year relate to communications (14%), followed by staff attitude/behaviour/values (13%) and clinical treatment (12%).
While GPs have seen an improvement, the number of new written complaints against hospital and community health services has risen by around 2%, from 113,989 in 2017/18, to 116,247 in 2018/19 – returning to around the same level seen in 2015/16.
Earlier this year the CQC launched a campaign encouraging patients to complain about GP services to improve standards of care.
GPs have previously warned of the stress caused to family doctors by patient complaints, and the need for more support in dealing with them.