- Posted Tuesday March 21, 2017
I don’t know about you, but I have seen a steady rise in the number and type of complaints coming into the surgery. I cannot help feeling that the nature of comments made by the Government about the NHS, which are then hyped up by the media, have left patients thinking that they should complain about everything they are not happy with.
Now don’t get me wrong - it is right that there is a complaints system in place, and that people should be able to complain. However, for argument’s sake, if a patient says they cannot get an appointment for a month, in our case that is just not true. We have so many types of appointments that usually a patient can be seen within 48 hours, if not on the same day.
Perhaps they are really saying, “We cannot get an appointment with the doctor we want, at the time we want for a month”. For that I make no apology, and I wonder who it is that is saying this should be possible!
If you are ill you will see any doctor, and if a doctor says come back and see me in a month surely you should make an appointment as you leave, rather than waiting three weeks to request an appointment!
We then get patients saying the doctor has got it wrong in their diagnosis or used the wrong medication. The internet in some way has a lot to answer for, as how many times do we go online to research our symptoms?
It is also very telling that when we make any changes recommended by the CCG at the Government’s request, the number of complaints go up. Where is the publicity supporting these initiatives? Sadly it is nowhere to be seen, and so we are viewed as the instigators, who will somehow make money out of the situation. Hence the flood of complaints being experienced at the moment.
Since moving to a much bigger practice I have altered the way I handle the complaints. In the smaller practice, I was often around and so invariably heard the complaint coming in. If I felt it was appropriate I would intervene, usually with a positive outcome.
This is not possible where I manage now. I do not have the same interaction as I had in the smaller practice, and so I have stopped being available upon demand to every patient wanting to see me. In most cases, I insist on the complaint being put in writing so I can investigate each point.
This often causes yet another complaint, but how often do we go into a situation not knowing all the facts, only to suddenly be faced with every problem the patient has ever had? Having it in writing makes the response easier, as we address the written issues and not what the patient thinks they said or meant. It also means we have an audit trail and of course this helps with CQC compliance.
My staff are excellent and either try to handle issues themselves, or will transfer to the reception manager who will once again try to find a resolution. In a few cases the staff may ask me to intervene as they think the issue is urgent - and they are normally correct.
Every complaint is investigated thoroughly and I insist that the truth is revealed both to me and in any response. It is always better to be upfront and explain what happened and why -and most importantly explain what changes we will be making as a result if they are found to be necessary.
We always discuss complaints at both the weekly partners meeting and the monthly practice meetings to try to learn from the issues raised. I do feel we worry too much about complaints and that in some instances they can be positive, helping us recognise a need to change processes and improve our service.
So, should we be worried about the rise in the number of complaints? I’ll leave that to you to decide!
Do you find patients can have unreasonable expectations about the services a practice can provide? Let us know your thoughts in the comments sections. Plus, FPM members can visit our Policies Library to access a wide range of documents on handling complaints.