General Health Thursday July 24, 2014

Why Have Complaints About Doctors Doubled In The Last 5 Years?


It’s becoming an all too familiar story now. After booking an appointment with your doctor, something that takes an age in itself, you arrive at the surgery on time. Now you play the waiting game. Even though the receptionist hardly ever calls your name out to see a doctor at the scheduled time, you desperately hope for today’s appointment to run like clockwork. Unfortunately, you’ll be waiting a long time due to…

Those dreaded waiting times

Here are some shocking stats from a recent article in the Telegraph to help paint the picture:

  • On 50 million occasions last year, patients who tried to access basic NHS care, had to wait more than a week to see their GP
  • The Royal College of GPs discovered that out of 47 million appointments made in 2013 – 1 in 6 involved a wait of at least 7 days
  • Figures stood at 40 million in 2012, suggesting a 17% yearly rise

But waiting times are nothing new, so why are more people coming forward to complain now?

The social media phenomenon

According to a newly published report assembled by the General Medical Council, social media takes the brunt of the blame. Patients are flooding online to Facebook and Twitter to vent their frustration, discussing everything from waiting times and limited medical advice to negligence and misdiagnoses by certain GPs.

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, it’s easier than ever before to join online communities, discuss treatments and complain. Most of the complaints centre on poor standards of care in general, but a large proportion involved personal attacks on registered doctors. Unless such complaints are filed to the Care Quality Commission or the NHS organisation responsible, doctors will find it increasingly difficult to monitor them, let alone reply.

Spare a thought for those poor doctors

Some doctors are beginning to crumble under the pressure and have began filing in requests for help, arguing that the negative criticism is making them practice more defensively. In response, the BMA Doctors for Doctors Unit are preparing to question 119,000 doctors to get feedback.

While patients are more than entitled to voice their disapprovals, they are being encouraged to contact complaints-handling departments. This will allow doctors to put negative comments into context and respond accordingly. Many unsatisfied patients are seeking alternatives, such as ordering their medication online.

What are other patients being forced to do?

A large number of irritated patients are turning to hospital emergency services. Representatives of health & social care in England found a high rate of GP referrals in such cases. We’ve all heard about patients misusing A&E but if you actually talk to these supposedly irresponsible people, they have become tired of trying to access their general practice. Katherine Rake, a speaker at the Human Tissue Authority’s annual event, held on the 15th July in London describes it as pure “frustration with the system.”

Everyone knows complaining has come to be known as a national tradition in our country but what else can you expect from patients who are neglected like this?

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