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18.03.16

GPs must improve response to complaints, says Ombudsman

Complaints to GPs are less likely to be upheld than others but GPs need to do more to ensure they deal with and learn from them properly, a new report Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman says.

The report looked at 137 general practice investigations into complaints and rated the response to complaints good in 46% of cases and outstanding in 9%. However, 36% were rated as needing improvement and 10% as poor.

The Ombudsman says that general practice needs to improve in asking for feedback, making sure staff understand statutory duties, taking a professional approach to complaints, admitting when they’ve made mistakes and sharing lessons learned with other practices.

Julie Mellor, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, said: “It is still vital that GP practices are open to feedback and complaints, in order to bring all practices up to the level of the best.

“GPs are under pressure and need support to deal with complaints. We are pleased that NHS England have committed to ensuring that all practices have staff who are trained to handle complaints, which is essential to provide a good public service.”

The report also found that the biggest reason for complaints, in 23% of cases, was staff attitude and/or behaviour.

Valid GP complaints make up an overall small proportion of complaints about the NHS. In 2014-15, the Ombudsman received 5,086 complaint enquiries about general practice, of which 223 (4%) were upheld, compared to 44% of complaints about acute trusts and 33% about mental health, social care and learning disability trusts.

CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field, said: “This important report highlights how complaints are an opportunity for GPs and GP surgeries to learn and to improve the quality of care that they provide.

“Patients have every right to feel listened to and reassured that what they report will be acted upon. This is what they deserve and what we look for on our inspections.”

The report comes after a recent British Social Attitudes survey warned that public dissatisfaction with the NHS has reached the highest level since 1983.

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