List-cleaning by PCTs behind rise in complaints, says RCGP

A rise in patient complaints about unfair removal from GP practice lists may be linked to list-cleaning exercises by PCTs, the RCGP has said.

RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada: GPs have no control over list-cleaning by PCTs

The Health Service Ombudsman report for 2011/12 found that  complaints about unfair removals from GP lists had risen by 16% from 94 in 2010/11 to 81 in 2011/12.

The Ombudsman said it carried out 10 formal investigations about patients’ unfair removal from practice lists in 2011/12, the same number as the year before.

Health Service Ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor said: ‘There needs to be a clear shift in the attitude and practice of some GPs towards complaints. Good complaint handling means listening to patients.’

But RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada questioned whether the number of patients being unfairly taken off practice lists had really risen. She said: ‘There are over one million consultations every day in general practice but any complaint or breakdown in the relationship between GP and patient is regrettable.

‘However, we query the rise in the number of patients being "unfairly or hastily struck off" and ask the Ombudsman to clarify whether this is being confused with the regular reviews (cleansing) of practice lists by Primary Care Trusts, which GPs have no control over.’

Dame Julie said that a rise in complaints about practices had raised wider concerns about the ability of GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to effectively deal with complaints.

She said: ‘In future, GP-led CCGs will be the main commissioners of NHS services. Together with the NHS Commissioning Board, they will need to ensure that the services they commission, whether from NHS or independent providers, follow our principles of good complaint handling.’

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