Written complaints about GPs are on the rise

A report by NHS Digital shows that, while written complaints about secondary care have declined, those regarding GPs and dentists have risen

Written complaints are on the rise for GPs and dental practices, according to research by NHS Digital.

During 2017/18 the NHS received 208,626 written complaints, which amounts to a 0.1% increase on the previous year, or one complaint per 265 people in England.

The report, Data on Written Complaints in the NHS, 2017-18, shows the difference in complaint numbers in primary versus secondary care. Complaints have actually risen by 4.5% in primary care, while they have fallen by 3.3% in secondary care.

There were, in total, 94,637 written complaints to primary care services – which includes GP and dental practices – in 2017/18, compared to 90,579 in 2016/17.

In secondary care (hospitals and community health services), there were 113,989 complaints, as compared to 117,836 the year before.

On average, there were 572 written complaints about the NHS every day in 2017/18, which is one more than the daily average in 2016/17.

The report provides a breakdown of secondary care complaints by profession, showing:

  • The medical profession received the highest number of written complaints with 65,737, a 1.2% decrease from 2016/17 when there were 66,502 complaints.
  • The nursing profession received the second highest number of written complaints with 35,873, a 2.5% decrease from 2016/17 when there were 36,784.
  • Midwifery was the profession with the highest percentage increase in written complaints, rising by 11% from 3,411 in 2016/17 to 3,785 in 2017/18.
  • The profession with the highest percentage decrease in written complaints was health visitors. The number dropped by 13.3% from 452 in 2016/17 to 392 in 2017/18.

A single written complaint can cover multiple subjects, service areas, and professions. This means the total number of written complaints involving a subject, service, or profession could be greater than the total number of written complaints.

Factors affecting the number of complaints may include the visibility of complaints procedures to patients and quality of recording, as well as the quality of services patients receive.

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