Medical complaints soar by double

COMPLAINTS against the NHS in Suffolk have more than doubled in only a year.

Richard Smith

COMPLAINTS against the NHS in Suffolk have more than doubled in only a year.

In the year ending on March 31 there were 238 complaints compared with 113 for the 12-month period ending in 2007.

The two significant areas for complaint relate to dental treatment and the care and treatment administered by GPs, with members of the public worried about the lack of NHS dentists in Bury St Edmunds and the Suffolk Coastal areas.

However, the Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) has defended the soaring increase in complaints and says the rise is a result of improving the complaints procedure.

A complaints manager has also been appointed and workshops have been held with GPs and practice managers to raise their understanding of their role in managing complaints.

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The complaints relate to health service provision in the community and this can include GPs, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, health visitors, funding for care packages and waiting times.

In the first three months of the year the PCT received 21 compliments and 62 written complaints. The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) received 1040 requests for help and their intervention prevented further complaints.

PALS aims to become established in Suffolk's prisons by next month to give help to inmates.

The NHS rules state that the PCT is required to provide a written response within 25 working days of receiving a complaint. Figures compiled for Suffolk PCT's board meeting on May 28 reveal that the PCT is responding on average within 12 days - but nine of the 62 complaints had not been resolved within 25 days.

Jonathan Williams, chief nurse with the PCT, said: “In a drive to be more responsive, we've improved our complaints procedures and the increased numbers are the effect of those changes.

“We've brought the complaints process in-house with a new team based in the Clinical Quality department. The department is part of the newly formed Clinical Directorate led by the Medical Director and is positioned there to ensure a focus on improving patient care.

“As a result, we have a more thorough complaints procedure which meets the needs of the patients and sees that, where appropriate, improvements are made to health care services.”

He added: “Complaints are kept confidential and if the complainant remains unhappy with the response, they are encouraged to contact the Healthcare Commission. Because we have a good system in place, we are able to resolve most complaints at an early stage so very few feel the need take matters further.”

No referrals were made or received from the Healthcare Commission from January to March.

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