Rise in patient complaints the consequence of an overstretched service, not the fault of GP teams

Responding to newly published data on written complaints in the NHS, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It is never easy to hear cases of patients dissatisfied with our services. Ultimately, GPs and patients are on the same side and we want to be able to deliver the high-quality care and services we are trained to deliver, so we share our patients’ frustrations when this isn't the case.

“The reality is that overstretched GP teams are doing their absolute best in exceptionally difficult circumstances to deliver care to the rising numbers of patients that need our services. A record 36.1 million consultations were delivered in October, with almost 40% of these on the same day booked, and more than 71% delivered in-person. All while the numbers of full-time equivalent, fully-qualified GPs has fallen by 713 since 2019 when the Government promised 6,000 more GPs.

“It is important to recognise the vast majority of patients accessing our services are satisfied with the care they receive. The latest GP patient survey highlighted 90% of patients surveyed felt that their needs were met during their consultation, and 93% continue to have confidence and trust in the healthcare professional they saw. It’s also worth noting that half of the complaints outlined in today’s dataset that were resolved were not upheld because there was no evidence to support any aspects of the complaint made.

“However, of the reasons complaints were made, 10% were a consequence of appointment availability and length. These are things that aren’t the fault of GP teams, but the consequence of a drastically under resourced, underfunded, and understaffed service facing unrelenting and unsustainable pressures.

“Today's findings must not be used as an opportunity to denigrate already-demoralised hardworking GPs and our teams, but instead a must needed wake-up call to Government to urgently address the spiralling workload and workforce pressures in general practice.

“The Government must act on the College’s calls to improve patients' experiences and ease GP pressures by investing in IT and booking systems, alongside a new recruitment and retention strategy that allows us to achieve and surpass the target of 6,000 more GPs.

“We also need to see a reduction in unnecessary bureaucracy, so that GPs can spend more time delivering care to patients.”

Further information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.