Complaints system confusion remains for some practices

Some GP practices remain confused about the NHS complaints system three years after it was overhauled, medico-legal experts have warned.

Complaints: written plan of action to handle complaint required
Complaints: written plan of action to handle complaint required

The Medical Protection Society (MPS) received more than 4,500 calls from practices asking for advice on handling complaints between January 2011 and June 2012.

The MPS revealed the figures after NHS Information Centre data showed that complaints about practices rose 8% in 2011/12 compared with the previous year, although complaints about individual GPs fell.

Under the complaints system introduced in 2009, practices must contact the patient within three days of receiving a complaint and offer them the opportunity to discuss and agree a plan of action detailing how the complaint will be taken forward.

This should include discussing the patient's expectations, the outcome they would like, and a timescale for a response to the complaint.

GPs have been warned by the MPS to maintain open communication with the patient throughout the whole process. Dr Stephanie Bown, MPS director of policy and communications, said: 'By being involved throughout the complaint process, the likelihood of it escalating can be reduced and the patient is more likely to be satisfied.'

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