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MDDUS advice on patient complaints

27 January 2014

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An ‘open and constructive” approach to complaints can resolve issues at the earliest stage, a senior medical advisors has claimed. 

Dr Barry Parker, medical advisor for the MDDUS said that most patients are not interested in drawn-out formal complaints. Instead, listening and understanding concerns can be enough to defuse a situation. 

Echoing Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s statements from last week, Dr Parker said a sincere apology should be offered where doctors can identify any failings in their care of a patient.

He said: “Sometimes a genuine apology is all that a patient wants when making a complaint. Even where the doctor does not believe a mistake has been made, it’s still possible to adopt a conciliatory tone by expressing regret that the patient is dissatisfied.

“Some patients may question their GP’s actions even if they have followed good medical practice and acted competently. In these situations, good record keeping is essential as this can support a doctor’s actions in addressing a complaint, whether at a local level, or to the Ombudsman or GMC.”

The most common complaints received by MDDUS include patients being unhappy with a treatment delay, alleged missed diagnosis and complaints by a family member of a deceased patient.

GMC guidance Good Medical Practice states: “You must respond promptly, fully and honestly to complaints and apologise when appropriate. You must not allow a patient’s complaint to adversely affect the care or treatment you provide or arrange.”