Similar process exists in general practice

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6947.129d (Published 09 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:129
  1. F A O'Driscoll
  1. General practitioner Rosedale Surgery, Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 8SH.

    EDITOR,—The proposed two stage NHS complaints procedure1 already, in effect, operates for complaints in general practice. Many practices have in house, informal procedures, and many family health services authorities have informal conciliatory procedures. These broadly equate with stage I of the proposed procedure.14 The proposed stage II or panel review equates with the current formal, service committee procedure. Thus not only have Professor Alan Wilson and his colleagues largely ignored the pleas made over the past two years by general practitioners that their system should be changed but they are now suggesting that this system should be extended to all other areas of the NHS.5 Those unfamiliar with the current general practice procedure will find that the proposed new system leaves a lot to be desired.

    There are no grounds for the assumption that if these proposals are adopted there will be fewer formal complaints about the services provided by the NHS. Currently the complainant or patient decides whether a complaint should be dealt with by a formal procedure. As a result, general practitioners have faced time consuming and stressful investigations and hearings, even when the complaint concerned a trivial matter. Officers dealing with complaints in general practice have not been held accountable for deciding whether to go to a formal hearing in any particular case. Satisfying the complainant has been the object of complaints procedures in general practice, not necessarily ensuring that justice is being done.

    General practitioners facing a complaint in the past have been found in breach of their terms of service in areas not covered by the complaint. The chief executive or, in primary care, a specially appointed complaints executive will therefore need not only to check that the issues are clearly stated and appropriate but to be held accountable for deciding whether a complaint should be rejected before stage II is initiated.

    General practitioners are in a position to forewarn their NHS colleagues of the taste of things to come. Before accepting the proposals our leaders should seek clarification on the aforementioned points and, indeed, many others that general practitioners are anxious about.


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