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Patients ‘unfairly’ struck off practice lists on the rise

9 November 2012

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Patient complaints over being “hastily” struck off practice lists are on the up, according to the health service ombudsman.

The report Listening and learning found a “continuing problem” with GPs “unfairly” or “hastily” striking off patients from their practice lists following disputes and disagreements.

As such, the ombudsman said patient complaints of this kind has increased by 16% in the past year.

“Our casework tells us there needs to be a clear shift in the attitude and practice of some GPs towards complaints,” said ombudsman Julie Mellor.

“Our concerns about how GPs are handling complaints about their practices need to be addressed as a priority. As the new NHS begins to take shape, GPs and other providers, GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups and the NHS Commissioning Board will need to work to embed good complaint handling across the NHS.”

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said any breakdown in the GP and patient relationship is “regrettable”.

“There are over one million consultations every day in general practice but any complaint or breakdown in the relationship between GP and patient is regrettable,” she said.

“However, we query the rise in the number of patients being ‘unfairly or hastily struck off’ and ask the ombudsman to clarify whether this is being confused with the regular reviews (cleansing) of practice lists by primary care trusts, which GPs have no control over.

“We will always do their best to resolve issues speedily and fairly and removals from the practice list should be used only as a last resort. Unfortunately, patients sometimes have to be removed, for example, where there has been a violent incident, but the college and the British Medical Association have specific guidance on this.”

The report also showed there has been a “significant” rise in the number of complaints in which NHS staff has failed to provide an “adequate” remedy or “proper” apology.

Mellor has received 50% more complaints about the NHS not acknowledging mistakes in care and 42% more complaints about “inadequate” remedies being offered, including “inadequate” apologies.