Complaints against GPs down but practice complaints up

COMPLAINTS about individual GPs in England have fallen while complaints about medical and dental practices have gone up, new figures show.

The number of written patient complaints against individual GPs fell by almost 3 per cent last year but those made against GP and dental practices rose by 8.2 per cent.

A new report from the NHS Information Centre reveals there were 54,870 written complaints against practices in 2011/12 compared to 50,708 in 2010/11.

While complaints about clinicians accounted for just over half (54.5 per cent) of all complaints made to practices, the total fell from 30,784 in 2010/11 to 29,897 in 2011/12.

There was a big rise in written complaints about a clinical service – advice and treatment provided by a healthcare professional in a GP or dental practice – which went from 17,465 in 2010/11 to 19,336 in 2011/12.

Written complaints against the NHS as a whole increased by around 8 per cent with 162,129 made in 2011/12 – the equivalent of 3,000 a week.

A total of 36 out of 151 PCTs did not provide figures on written complaints in 2011/12, an increase on 29 the previous year. The report said this may have been because no complaints were received or that PCTs were not notified of any complaints. A more proactive approach to gathering complaints information may also have contributed to higher practice complaints figures, the report added.

Until April 2011, statistics had been filed on a voluntary basis but this will now be compulsory for all NHS organisations.

In his response to the report, NHS Confederation chief executive David Stout said the rise in complaints may not necessarily mean patients are less happy with their care.

He said: “Although it sounds peculiar, a rise in complaints data can actually mean that patients feel more engaged with their local NHS and want to work with it to improve. It's also a sign that patients are confident their concerns will be listened to and acted upon.”

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