Grumpy receptionists and problems making an appointment fuel surge in patients' complaints about GPs

Computer says no: Surly receptionists have led to a surge in complaints

Computer says no: Surly receptionists have led to a surge in complaints

Complaints against family doctors’ surgeries have risen by almost ten per cent in a year – not least because of a surge in grievances over ‘surly’ receptionists.

Many patients also complained about difficulties in obtaining an appointment and getting through on the phone.

More than 53,590 written complaints were lodged by patients against local surgeries last year, well over 1,000 a week.

This is up from 49,765 last year and a rise of a quarter since 2007/8 when the NHS data was first collected.

The biggest increase involved those complaints relating to the attitude of receptionists, the phone-lines being engaged or the lack of appointments.

Joyce Robins of Patient Concern said: ‘Some receptionists are very surly and won’t even give you the time of day.

'I encountered one of them a few days ago. I went into a surgery with an elderly friend. She had already been trying all morning on the phone to make an appointment.

‘The receptionist told her she shouldn’t have done that, it wasn’t the policy, and she should have rung between 8 and 9am.

'There seems to be no rule for practices, they can just operate as they like.

‘GP services have got worse over the last two to three years, or at the very least that is patients’ perception.’

Waiting game: Difficulties getting an appointment was another common reason fro complaints about local GPs

Waiting game: Difficulties getting an appointment was another common reason for patients' complaints about local GPs

Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said the figures were the ‘tip of the iceberg.’

She added: ‘Our helpline is inundated with calls from patients who have either been put off from complaining because they have no faith in what can be a hugely difficult system to navigate, or they have gone through a process only to receive no response.’

Doctor's surgeries got over 1,000 complaints in 2011

Doctor's surgeries got over 1,000 complaints in 2011

There were 9,924 grievances about what is collectively termed ‘general practice administration,’ a rise of nearly a quarter in just 12 months.

There is also evidence that many patients are finding it difficult to get an appointment.

a recent survey by the Department of Health showed that half of patients could not see their family doctor within two days.

This was far worse than the previous year when only a fifth of patients were unable to get an appointment within 48 hours – the Government’s waiting time target.

The figures from the NHS Information Centre show that poor medical care was the most common cause of complaint.

Some 19,336 were lodged last year relating to late diagnosis and not being given the right treatment.

Another 11,650 involved the attitude or communication of the doctor or nurse, while 5,210 were made about the running of the surgery.

The data also shows that a total of 162,129 complaints were made against hospitals last year – more than 3,100 a week.

Paul Burstow, the minister for care services said: ‘For the first time, all NHS organisations have submitted information about their complaints. This has led to a small rise in the number recorded.’

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