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02-09-2012 | General practice | Article

GP complaints process confusion


Medical Protection Society

medwireNews: Many GP practices are still unsure of the current complaints process after it was revised back in 2009, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) has revealed.

The Society has received over 4,500 calls for advice about complaints handling in the past 18 months.

Although there have been some good examples of GP practices dealing with complaints, MPS Director of Policy and Communications Dr Stephanie Bown said the continued "widespread confusion" about what is required is worrying.

She noted that one key change to the process concerns the approach taken when involving the patient who has complained.

"It is very important that the complaints handler maintains open communication with the patient throughout the process. This includes producing a written plan of action, agreed with the patient about how they are going to investigate and reply to the complaint," Dr Bown explained in a statement.

"By being involved throughout the complaint process, the likelihood of it escalating can be reduced and the patient is more likely to be satisfied."

The MPS says that a recent workshop also highlighted other areas where practices were uncertain of due process, including the need to appoint a complaints manager, how to negotiate with the patient an appropriate timescale for responding (as the 10-day period previously used no longer applies) and informing the patient of their right to advocacy and of redress through the Ombudsman.

Dr Bown added: "Complaints really are an opportunity to make improvements to your practice and potentially avoid larger issues. Some complaints will pivot around the patient's expectations and perceptions, but we encourage members to treat every complaint seriously, and follow swift and proper process to avoid matters escalating."

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price