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GP practices see surge in written complaints while secondary care complaints fall

by Valeria Fiore
7 September 2018

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There has been an increase in the number of written complaints submitted to GP and dental practices but a fall in those presented to secondary care, NHS Digital has found.
In a report published yesterday (6 September), Data on Written Complaints in the NHS, 2017-18, NHS Digital said that there was a 4.5% rise in the number of complaints made by or on behalf of patients to GP and dental practices.
NHS Digital counted 94,637 written complaints to primary care services (both GP and dental practices) in 2017/18 compared to 90,579 in 2016/17.
Secondary care saw a 3.3% fall in the number of complaints received in 2017/18, down from 117,836 in 2016/17 to 113,989 this year.
NHS Digital report is based on data received between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 in England and collected via the KO41a for secondary care and KO41b for primary care.
The total number of all reported written complaints (including both primary and secondary care) in 2017-18 was 208,626, 0.1% up from 2016-17.
Several issues in one complaint
NHS Digital specified that a ‘single written complaint can cover multiple subjects, service areas, and professions’, meaning that there might be a greater number of complaints ‘involving a subject, service, or profession’ than the total number of written complaints.
The report found that 83.1% of 96,700 complaints related to ‘GP surgery’ and 14.6% to ‘Dental surgery’. Around 98,300 complaints were made against staff groups, of which 44.2% related to practitioners (GPs or Dentists) and 25% to admin staff.
Around 17.7% of the 111,046 complaints by subject area related to clinical treatment, 14.8% to communications and 11.3% to staff attitude/behaviours/values, according to NHS Digital.
‘Rise in patient expectations’
Tracy Dell, practice manager at the Plane Trees Group Practice in Halifax, said that she has seen an increase in the number of complaints her practice received in the past year.

She said this might be due to a ‘rise in patient expectations’, a greater availability of forums that patients can use to complain, the lack of GPs and the increased bureaucratic pressures practices are now facing, ‘especially around Capita/PCSE failures with regards to patient records, movements and registrations’.
She added: We have seen an increase in the number of minor complaints but thankfully most of those were found to be ‘unfounded’ after investigation’.