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complaintMarch 18 2015

A Which? report is flagging up concerns the public has over making complaints about the service they receive from GP surgeries.

As part of a wider report on public services in general, the consumer rights organisation says the public can feel “vulnerable and victimised” after making a complaint.

“People told us of their fear of worse treatment as a result of complaining,” says the report ‘Make complaints count’. “There were many who felt that complaining would prejudice their treatment or case (eg they would be labelled the ‘difficult patient’) or they were at risk of being struck off or blacklisted from accessing the public service (eg GP surgeries).”

Included in the document are a number of quotes taken from the 14,000 stories Which? had received from supporters of its campaign. Among those from health service users were three referring to their treatment by GP surgeries:

•    “I feel that my GP has treated me badly and I feel that I have no mechanism for making a complaint without the feeling that I would be asking to be blacklisted in some way.”
•    “I am aware of someone who is frightened of complaining about their GP practice because of a fear of being blacklisted and removed from the practice register. They have been told there is no right of appeal against such a decision.”
•    “I too made a complaint about my GP. Both me and my family got struck off with my father suffering from cancer at the time, which I feel was disgusting.”

The report has been published with feedback from members of the public on a range of public services. Across all public service areas, “the most common problems people experience with public services are quality (42%), waiting times (32%), and communication from professionals (29%).”

It also found that 49% of people who had a problem with a public service provider last year had not complained. People who experience a problem with the NHS are least likely to speak up about it, with only 40% of people complaining formally, compared to 51% for public services as a whole. “Satisfaction with the way complaints about the NHS were handled was also lower (23%),” it says.

Which? has sent the report to all political parties saying it “wants the next Government to commit to reforming the public service complaints system, after finding at least 5.3 million people didn’t complain about their problem last year, and a number of those who did felt victimised or that nothing was done.

“The reasons putting people off complaining were not feeling it would be worth the effort (35%) and thinking nothing would be done about the problem (35%). One in seven (14%) didn’t complain because they were worried about receiving worse treatment as a result.

“However, even when people did complain, they weren’t always happy with how it was handled. Only three in ten (31%) were satisfied with the way their complaint was dealt with and half (48%) felt their complaint was ignored. A similar percentage (46%) said complaining just added to their stress and a quarter (26%) said it had put them off complaining again.”

The CQC has welcomed the report, saying that some of the findings match its own investigation into how complaints about health and social care services are dealt with.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the CQC, said: “The findings from Which? mirror our own recent investigation of the complaints system across health and adult social care in England. We found huge variation where people who raise concerns about NHS, primary care and adult social care services were often met with a defensive culture rather than one that listens and is willing to learn.

“We consider various information, including the number of complaints, to help us decide when and where to inspect. Serious concerns raised to us can lead to unannounced inspections.”

Links:

Which? Campaigns - Public Services    

Which? ‘Make complaints count’ Report    

CQC response    

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