Intended for healthcare professionals


Learning from complaints about general practitioners

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 12 June 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1567

Clinical governance means handling complaints betterfor both parties

  1. Richard Baker, Director
  1. Clinical Governance Research and Development Unit, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Leicester, Leicester LE5 4PW

    General practice p 1596

    Those who worry about improving quality claim that “every defect is a treasure,” but for the patient who is the victim defects can be disasters, not treasures. Patients who experience defects in care therefore need a complaints system that allows them to express their concerns, undertakes an investigation, provides an appropriate apology, and takes action to reduce the risk of harm to other patients. If such a complaints system is also to provide a supportive environment to doctors who are the subject of complaints it needs to be part of a wider set of systems that are concerned with improving quality overall.

    Dissatisfaction with the previous system of handling complaints in the NHS led to the introduction of a new system in April 1996.1 Since then the complaints system has been separated from disciplinary procedures, and the new system for general practice divided into three levels. At the first level practices are required to have practice based complaints systems organised to comply with national criteria. The second …

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