This site is intended for health professionals only

Significant rise in practice complaints as CQC accused of ‘soliciting negative GP feedback’

by Caitlin Tilley
16 February 2022

Share this article

CQC data has shown a 176% increase in people reporting a bad experience from GP providers in 2021 after the launch of its ‘Give feedback on care’ portal.

The data, provided to Pulse, showed that the regulator had received 8,267 negative comments about GP practices in 2021, up from 3,001 in 2020, all made through the portal.

It also showed an increase in positive comments, from 804 to 1,462.

‘Give feedback on care’, established in 2019, allows people to share experiences of care or concerns about services, and in 2021 the CQC ran campaigns for patients to raise concerns through the portal.

However, GPs have expressed concerns that this amounts to the CQC ‘soliciting negative comments’ about GP practices, and the figures are a ‘gross misrepresentation’ of patients’ feelings about general practice.

Pulse’s analysis of CQC’s Give feedback on care data showed:

  • Overall feedback on GP providers increased by 155%, from 4,149 in 2020 to 10,588 in 2021. 
  • Purely bad experiences made up 72% of all feedback in 2020, rising by six percentage points to 78% in 2021.
  • Purely good experiences made up 19% of all feedback in 2020, decreasing by five percentage points to 14% in 2021.

Chair of grassroots campaign group GP Survival Dr John Hughes said the CQC’s figures are ‘a gross misrepresentation of statistics to make it look much worse than it is’.

He said: ‘In any survey, there’s going to be a certain amount of recording bias that the people who aren’t happy are more likely to respond than the ones who had a good experience.’

South-West London GP partner Dr Nicholas Grundy told Pulse: ‘Encouraging more people to give feedback is likely to increase negative feedback – a pompous, trivial national body like the CQC sending this garbage out will have just attracted people [who] love to complain, and anonymous feedback to a self-important national body I imagine attracted comments from lots of people who’d been taken in by the Government telling them they should demand face-to-face appointments.’

He added: ‘My practice, like every other one in the country, has feedback every day informally from patients. We have formal feedback via our Patient Participation Group, and via the local Healthwatch, who are excellent.’

During the pandemic, GPs suffered months of public and media backlash over the idea that GP practices were closed and GPs were not seeing patients face-to-face.

CQC chief inspector of primary medical services Dr Rosie Benneyworth said in November that feedback on primary care had increased overall, and that the lion share ‘relates to concerns that we are seeing about access to care in general practice’.

In October, unannounced CQC access inspections were introduced as part of NHS England plans for improving access to GP practices, enabling the regulator to work with NHS England to ‘make the required improvements across those practices which are not meeting people’s reasonable needs’.

But last month the CQC revealed its first 40 access focused inspections on GP practices had found ‘no current issues’ at any practice.

Give feedback on care sentimentJan-Nov 2020Jan-Nov 2021% increase
Bad experience3,0018,267175.5%
Both good and bad experience344859149.7%
Good experience8041,46281.8%

Source: CQC data provided to Pulse

Nottingham GP partner Dr Shan Hussain also told Pulse the findings are ‘clearly different’ to the latest IPSOS Mori GP patient survey, which showed that 83% of patients described a good overall experience.

He said: ‘Speaking to my colleagues across the nation it appears that we are doing all we can within a broken system during extraordinary times. The pandemic has truly exposed the cracks within general practice as our workload increases and staff numbers fall.’

The NHS’s latest GP patient survey found more than eight in ten patients (83%) had an overall ‘good’ experience of their GP practice between January and March 2021.

A CQC spokesperson said: ‘We are sensitive to the pressures facing care providers, this is why we continue to be flexible and adaptable in our approach, focusing on responding to risk. This includes listening to what people tell us about their experiences of using services and informing them about the quality of care that they can expect to receive.

‘We use feedback to inform our regulatory action to ensure people are receiving good quality and safe care. We could not do this without the concerns people raise, and the positive feedback on services which we use to share good practice.’