Medicine: Complaints against GPs rise

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Complaints against family doctors increased last year to an average of one per GP, latest figures show. Complaints against hospitals fell to 92,974 while those against GPs and dentists rose to 36,990. The number of written complaints in 1996-97 was about the same as the previous year at almost 130,000.

Publishing the figures, the first under the new NHS complaints procedure introduced in April 1996, Baroness Jay, the health minister, said complaints were the clearest form of patient dissatisfaction and could improve quality in the NHS.

"The NHS treats many thousands of people every day and the vast majority of them receive excellent treatment. Sometimes things will go wrong. When they do it is very important that they are put right quickly and that lessons are learned. Learning from complaints and using them to improve services will help the NHS to achieve the high standard of care its staff are striving to achieve."

The figures show two thirds of complaints to hospitals were resolved locally within the target time of four weeks. Of the 130,000 complainants, 2,600 remained dissatisfied with efforts to resolve the matter locally and demanded an independent review. This is conducted by an official and an independent lay person who may, if they think there is a case to answer, refer the complaint to an independent review panel.

Baroness Jay said: "Complaints must be handled sensitively, effectively and without delay. That is a basic right of patients. Responding to, even encouraging complaints, and dealing with them locally wherever possible, is a direct way of pushing up the quality of service that the NHS delivers."

- Jeremy Laurance Health Editor