Two leading insurance companies have seen a surge in the number of serious complaints against GPs, reports claim.
The firms, which cover nine out of 10 family doctors, dealt with nearly 300 complaints in 2006, the BBC said.
The Medical Protection Society (MPS) figures apparently show 30 new cases were seen in the UK in 2003 – the last full year before changes to GPs’ contracts came in – but by 2006 that number had risen to 100.
The broadcaster says the Medical Defence Union (MDU) also dealt with 182 complaints in England last year, up from 120 in 2002.
Changes in 2004 allowed doctors to opt out of providing weekend and night care in a bid to ensure better standards during weekdays.
A Department of Health (DH) spokeswoman said: “All out-of-hours services must now be delivered to national standards, regardless of where a patient lives, and this is monitored and subject to performance management by local primary care trusts and strategic health authorities.
“Patient experiences are generally positive. The recent National Audit Office report confirms that eight out of 10 patients are satisfied with the service.
“If we had not negotiated a new contract, we risked the deterioration and indeed potential collapse of the GP service that has been at the heart of the NHS for nearly 60 years.”
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“Our primary care trust deals admirably with the OOHs provision and they deal with the complaints direct. As a practice, we have not had to deflect many complaints – possibly three or four at the most – since the inception of Trust handling. I think the main problem with OOHs is the belief it covers everything, from routine to acute. Patients’ perspective of an “emergency” has changed vastly over the decades, and can be anything from a heart attack to a pimple on the nose. There are far more social problems to be dealt with than previously considered as “OOHs care”, which rely on a network of human resourse availability. Education on what avenues to go down prior to contacting OOHs – ie, pharmacy, support group contact numbers, etc – may assist in this education but also the understanding that this is OOHs emergency care, and not for routine treatment. This in itself might release some of the pressures on the service and allow those with emergencies to be dealt with timeously” – Susane Hogarth, Dunfermline