Last year over one in five of all complaints about GPs investigated by the Ombudsman in England were about patient removal from surgery lists, according to a report on NHS performance.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman received over 15,000 complaints about the NHS in 2010-11. Most of these were resolved locally but 21 per cent of those further investigated were about patient removals, a rise of 6 per cent compared to the previous year.
Ombudsman Ann Abraham said: "What's really worrying about these cases is far too often GPs don't seem to be aware of what their NHS contracts require of them.
"Their contracts require them to give a warning before people are removed unless the circumstances are exceptional."
GPs do have the right to remove patients from their lists if there is an "irretrievable breakdown" and attempts to resolve it haven't been successful. But she added: "What we see in far too many cases is a knee-jerk response to a single incident where an individual – sometimes a whole family – is removed."
Patients and their families need to be encouraged to speak up and complain, said Abraham.
"There is a growing recognition that patient feedback is a valuable resource for the NHS at a time of uncertainty and change. It is a resource that is directly and swiftly available, covering all aspects of service, care and treatment. But when feedback is ignored and becomes a complaint, it risks changing from being an asset to a cost."
The report also reveals that London and the North West were the two regions in England that generated the most complaints, and more complaints were received about hospital, specialist and teaching trusts (acute) than any other group (6,924 complaints or 46 per cent). Primary care trusts and GPs accounted for 18 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, of all complaints.
The two most common reasons people gave for being dissatisfied with how the NHS had handled their complaint were poor explanations and no acknowledgement of mistakes.