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Sorry? Not sorry

Sorry, I’ve only just caught up with this story. Except, why am I apologising? Thanks to viral punters hoping that I’ll dole out seasonally wrapped gift packs of amoxicillin, I’ve been too busy to read the news. And that’s my point. Sometimes, we should make no apologies.

Ninety per cent of complaints I encounter are utterly pointless, baseless, and moronic

Whereas the story suggests the opposite, repeating the mantra that we GPs should have a very low – as in non-existent – threshold for saying ‘sorry’ to aggrieved patients. Apparently, it averts potential complaints. Hmmm. Maybe.

But it’s a complete grovelling apology-fest, isn’t it? Because the advice is the same when you do receive that complaint. Whether or not you’re in the wrong, you’re supposed to start with how you are soooooooooooo very very sorry etc etc.

Well, I beg to differ. Ninety per cent of complaints I encounter are utterly pointless, baseless, and moronic. And they’re often from serial offenders. These patients like to see themselves as wronged victims battling bravely against a faceless, uncaring system. They’re not and they aren’t. They’re just enjoying having a good gripe at people who are doing their best. They are the type of person who, after a standard twenty minute wait to be seen, bitch endlessly about the delay and then, with no sense of irony whatsoever, present six different problems.

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Far from being the injured party, they are the ones inflicting serious hurt, not least because every complaint, no matter how trivial, creates a lot of work and hammers another nail in the coffin of my sense of vocation.

It’s perfectly OK to try to change inappropriate patient behaviour, isn’t it? It’s fine, for example, to say, ‘No’ to those seasonal amoxicillin requests. Stupid complaints should be dealt with in exactly the same way – otherwise we just reinforce that sense of righteous indignation.

Sorry? Sod off, more like.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield