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Record 90,000 complaints on GPs and dentists

 

A record 90,600 complaints were made about GPs and dentists last year, NHS figures show.

The number has risen by 10 per cent in a year amid growing frustration about waiting times and a lack of doctors.

A total of 208,415 written complaints were made against the NHS in 2016/17, an average of 571 every single day.

This figure is also a record high although officials pointed out that hospitals and health trusts had become better at collecting data.

GP leaders admitted surgeries were ‘buckling under the pressures’ of the rising demand and shortage of staff.

Family doctors across England are considering closing their doors to new patients because they cannot cope with those already on the register.

A total of 208,415 written complaints were made against the NHS in 2016/17, an average of 571 every single day, new figures show

A total of 208,415 written complaints were made against the NHS in 2016/17, an average of 571 every single day, new figures show

A total of 208,415 written complaints were made against the NHS in 2016/17, an average of 571 every single day, new figures show

The figures from NHS Digital show that in 2016/17 there were 72,668 complaints about GPs in 2016/17 and 11,867 for dentists.

This is 90,579 combined, and up by 9.7 per cent on the 82,559 recorded in 2015/16.

Experts aren’t surprised 

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Unfortunately we’re not surprised to see an increase in complaints relating to GPs. They are the key route in to NHS services when people develop new or greater health needs, and our helpline receives more calls about them than anything else bar hospitals – within those calls, information is most often the key issue.

‘We know the GP workforce is overstretched, at a time of rising demand. With GPs facing those pressures, one would naturally expect to see more instances of care falling short and patients being dissatisfied.

‘It’s well understood that we need to redesign services to keep people well in their own homes, reduce people’s need to seek help because their health problems have become pressing and, to achieve this, deliver more services in primary care, including in GP practices, that are currently the preserve of hospitals.

‘Those changes should help reduce pressures on GPs, but the funding to transform services effectively just isn’t available in the NHS’s current financial settlement.’

A sign of ‘tremendous pressure’ 

Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: ‘This is a sign of the tremendous pressure that the NHS Is under, particularly primary care.

‘More and more people are not getting the standard of care they have the right to expect.

‘Staff are battling to deliver the best care under difficult circumstances, but the pressure facing the NHS is simply not sustainable.’

GPS TOLD TO SLASH HOSPITAL REFERRALS

GPs won’t be able to send patients straight to hospital without consulting a panel of other doctors under a controversial plan to slash costs.

The NHS is rolling out a scheme that requires all family doctors in England to seek approval from a medical panel for all non-urgent hospital referrals.

It covers GP requests for scores of procedures, including hip and knee surgery, cataract removals, X-rays and scans. If the panel disagrees with a doctor’s request, the patient is refused a hospital appointment.

The so-called ‘peer review’ scheme is being expanded nationwide from next week following a pilot in two regions in the North East. 

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs said: ‘GP practices actively encourage patients to submit feedback and raise complaints if they feel that the care and services they have received are below their expectations. It is through patient feedback that GP teams can improve the care they deliver to their patients.

‘However, the family doctor service has experienced almost a decade of under-investment and as a result, GPs and our teams are buckling under the pressures of a huge increase in patient numbers but a shortage of doctors to care for them.

‘Inevitably, this will occasionally impact on the service we can deliver and this can be frustrating for patients – and GPs.’

Patients left without answers 

Experts said many patients who complained about care in GPs or hospitals were fobbed off by staff, and left without answers.

Robert Behrens, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which handles the most serious complaints said: ‘The NHS provides high-quality care to millions of people every year but unfortunately we still see a wide variation in the quality of NHS complaint handling.

‘Far too many complaints come to us that could have been resolved by the NHS, leaving people waiting too long for answers and delaying important improvements.

‘We are committed to working with the NHS to improve the way complaints are handled.’

 

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