Delayed diagnoses top complaints against GPs

GPs must learn from patient complaints and respect their feelings, the Health Commission has said.

Following the publication of a summary of complaints against GP practices and other parts of the health service in England, the commission’s chief executive Anne Walker said that complaints represented ‘the raw feelings of patients and the NHS must listen and learn from them’.

‘At the centre of each one is an individual who often has genuinely suffered,’ she said. ‘Too often, this was not just because of what went wrong but because of the way people were dealt with.’

The Healthcare Commission has consistently reviewed up to 700 complaints each month since taking on the role in August 2004, 10 per cent of them about GP practices.

This represents a threefold increase on figures before the commission took over, suggesting that patients do not trust local complaint procedures to be impartial. Almost half of all complaints against GPs concerned a failure or delay in diagnosis.

The second most common cause was quality of clinical care (16 per cent), closely followed by the attitudes of GPs or their staff and removal of patients from a practice list (both 15 per cent). A further 6 per cent of complaints were about problems with record keeping.

The commission has published five recommendations for GPs.

Dr Michael Devlin, medico-legal adviser at the MDU, said: ‘Patients who complain often want an explanation of what happened, an assurance it won’t happen again and an apology.’

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