From time to time, patients will be unhappy with the service or care they receive from the practice. All practices need to have a complaints procedure that clearly informs patients of ways that they can express their views, which should include details on how the complaints procedure works and the mechanism for giving positive or constructive feedback. Prompt complain resolutions are beneficial for both the image of the practice and avoiding administrative burdens.

To create a more patient-focused service, practices must:

  • listen to patients’ concerns

  • act on these concerns to prevent problems recurring.

This topic sets out the complaints process, from who can make a complaint, to time limits, the duties of the practice to deal with the complaint and resolutions.

The NHS complaints procedure has been designed to be as patient focused as possible and investigate complaints effectively and efficiently. In the two-stage process, initially local resolution should enable the complaint to be investigated properly at practice level.

However, if patients are not happy with the outcome, the second stage of the complaints process is to as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to review their complaint and how it has been handled by the practice. Patients may also complain to NHS England.

NHS England and NHS Improvement acknowledged that NHS providers may have taken longer than usual to investigate and respond to complaints because of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Ombudsman reassured NHS organisations they will take into consideration the impact of the pandemic on the decisions they made during this period. They also changed the way they work as a consequence of the pandemic and individuals will be contacted directly if their complaint is impacted as a result.

The CQC altered the way they worked during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. From April 2021, CQC inspection activity will be a continuation of their previous inspection programme. The way they inspect GP locations has not significantly changed but CQC inspectors will spend less time on site as part of inspection activity and liaise with GP practices to gather evidence in different ways.

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