Kent to offer GPs in-house system

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MORE THAN 300 GP practices in Kent are to be invited to run their own in-house complaints system after the success of two pilot schemes.

Complaints will initially be handled by the practice manager, a designated partner, or an independent outsider for single-handed or two-partner practices. Doctors will have to agree to advertise clearly their openness to complaints.

They will also have to agree to allow the Family Health Services Authority, to whom GPs are answerable for breaches in their terms and conditions of service, to monitor how they handle the complaints. In return, the FHSA will initially refer all complaints to the practice rather than starting formal or informal proceedings, both of which can be traumatic and time-consuming.

Patients will still have the right to take formal proceedings, but Jean Jones, chief officer of the Maidstone Community Health Council, says that the results from the two pilot schemes have proved impressive. In one case the GP decided not to refer a baby to hospital despite the parents' worries. In the end, they took the child themselves.

When Wendy Toll, the practice manager, was told of the case and brought the parents and the GP together, the issue was resolved. 'Essentially there had been a breakdown in communication. But that is often what a complaint involves,' she said.