Out-of-hours - complaints soar9th August 2007
New figures show that the number of serious complaints made against GPs over out-of-hours care has risen significantly.
The findings come from two family doctors’ insurance companies, which say that in 2006 they dealt with almost 300 complaints.
The companies cover most GPs in England and one said that since 2004, when new GP contracts were introduced, it has seen the number of cases triple.
The new GP contract permitted doctors to opt-out of night and weekend cover with Primary Care Trusts left to organise alternative cover. But critics of the change believe the service has got worse while at the same time GP’s annual pay has passed £100,000.
The Medical Defence Union (MDU) and Medical Protection Society (MPS) only get involved with the most serious and complex cases. The MPS figures show that from 30 new cases in the UK in 2003, it was dealing with 100 by 2006. The MDU dealt with 182 complaints in England last year, up from 120 in 2002.
The MDU said the most common reasons for complaints were a delay or failure in diagnosis, a death and delay or failure to visit.
The Patients Association said the figures were worrying but not surprising and while it was reassured that Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was looking at this issue, it urged him to act straight away.
The British Medical Association said patients became annoyed when they could not see their normal doctor making them more likely to complain.
The Department of Health maintained patient experience of out-of-hours care was generally positive.
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