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Constant complaint

‘Constant complaint is the poorest sort of pay for all the comforts we enjoy.’

Benjamin Franklin

A study in 2010 showed that candidates who were white, female and British educated were most likely to successfully pass the Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) exam first time. It seems with my plans to do the CSA next year I am already at a disadvantage, being that I am a man and Asian, although some would say being born in Essex is a disadvantage in itself.

Having been in my new ST3 practice for nearly six weeks now and slowly getting to know the patients in the local area, I have had some unexpected encounters with patients, namely the occasional ‘Thank you’ and more surprisingly, a ‘Thank you’ with a hand shake – even from teenagers.

I hope these responses are a sign that I have managed a patient well and they are going away pleased. My GP training and preparations for the CSA have highlighted the need for a patient-centred approach with consultations and the need to develop a shared care plan, in the hope that the patient feels part of the decision making process and hopefully feels happier and more aware of what is going on in their care.

So, it seems disappointing that the recent news headlines based on a GMC report suggest that the number of complaints GPs receive has gone up approximately 23% from the previous year. Many articles have given some of the reasons for these complaints such as inadequate management plans, poor communication, frustration that patients can’t see their own doctor, and the attitude of the doctor to name a few.

As an ST3, I suspect that because of my longer consultation times and lower workload compared to my GP colleagues, I potentially have a greater opportunity to address the ideas, concerns and expectations of a patient, as well as agree a shared management plan because I am honing my consultation skills for an exam and thus must try to be the best GP I can be for the day. I wonder how many of the complaints were against GP trainees?

The GP landscape will change markedly in the next few years, what with commissioning, changes in pensions, retirements and an increased female workforce, it will be interesting to see whether complaints will increase or decrease in the future.

In the meantime, I am grateful for the occasional ‘Thank you’ and hand-shake, and hope to continue to smile and say ‘Hello, how may I help you today?’, even if I may not feel the happiest when I say it.

Dr Avradeep Chakrabarti is a GST2 from Swindon