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Ailing NHS gets more complaints than EVER before amid never-ending battle to get GP and dentist appointment


Complaints to the NHS about GPs and dental care have hit a record high as patients struggle to get appointments, official figures reveal.

There were 125,584 grievances about primary care – including GPs and dentists – in 2022/23, more than double the 52,703 lodged a decade ago.

Some 23,567 of the 112,189 complaints about family doctors centred on waiting times for an appointment, not being able to obtain one, or the length of consultations.

Other gripes included patients who were unhappy that their medic had refused to refer them for scans or to a consultant; had denied them a prescription; or misdiagnosed them.

There were 16,087 complaints about dentists last year – up a third in five years.

There were 125,584 grievances about primary care - including GPs and dentists - in 2022/23, more than double the 52,703 lodged a decade ago. The number of primary care complaints was also up 4.6 per cent in a year and one in three - 32 per cent - were fully upheld. However, the number of complaints about hospital and community health services fell by 1.5 per cent compared with 2021/22, with 27.6 per cent upheld

There were 125,584 grievances about primary care – including GPs and dentists – in 2022/23, more than double the 52,703 lodged a decade ago. The number of primary care complaints was also up 4.6 per cent in a year and one in three – 32 per cent – were fully upheld. However, the number of complaints about hospital and community health services fell by 1.5 per cent compared with 2021/22, with 27.6 per cent upheld

NHS Digital data published today shows 39.6 per cent of all GP appointments in England in September were held on the same day the patient called seeking help. Patients however can specifically ask for an appointment on a specific date in the future

NHS Digital data published today shows 39.6 per cent of all GP appointments in England in September were held on the same day the patient called seeking help. Patients however can specifically ask for an appointment on a specific date in the future

Again, patients were often unhappy about the difficulties they faced accessing a dentist or the quality of care they received once they were in the chair.

It follows reports of patients having to perform ‘DIY dentistry’, including pulling out their own teeth, as they have been unable to register with an NHS dentist.

The NHS Digital figures, published today, come as separate new data from the same organisation shows that the number of fully qualified full-time-equivalent GPs has fallen by 254 in a year.

The number of primary care complaints was up 4.6 per cent in a year and one in three – 32 per cent – were fully upheld.

However, the number of complaints about hospital and community health services fell by 1.5 per cent compared with 2021/22, with 27.6 per cent upheld.

The largest proportion of new hospital and community health complaints related to poor communications, accounting for 16.6 per cent.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘It is sad and troubling to hear that GPs have been receiving a higher number of complaints due to difficulty in access – our patients should be able to see a GP when they need one and we share their frustration when they struggle to get appointments.

‘The unfortunate reality is that our hard working and committed GPs often end up the “fall guys” for the government’s failure to appropriately resource and finance primary care.’

Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association, said: ‘It’s no surprise complaints are piling in for NHS dentistry, but these access problems were made in Westminster, and that’s where the fault lies.

‘Things will go from bad to worse unless Ministers deliver reform and investment.’

Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat’s health spokeswoman, said: ‘Everyday, thousands of people across the country are struggling to book an appointment with their GP or dentist.’

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘Staff across the NHS are working hard to cope with increased demand with GPs delivering half a million more appointments each week compared to pre-pandemic, while NHS dentists carried out 32.5 million courses of treatment in 2022/2023 — up almost a quarter since the previous year.

‘In line with our commitment to recover access to primary care, the NHS published a plan earlier this year, which includes upgrading telephone systems to make it easier for people to contact their general practice while more than 31,000 additional staff have joined GP teams since 2019 to deliver even more appointments.’

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of the GP Committee at the British Medical Association, said: ‘GPs want to see our patients as quickly as possible but, despite our efforts, what we’re currently experiencing in general practice is the fallout of more than a decade of neglect.

‘It’s no coincidence that complaints have increased during this time as patients, understandably, become more and more frustrated with appointment availability.

‘The Government has failed to adequately fund general practice and consistently takes an approach that ignores the issue of retention.

‘The NHS has lost the equivalent of 2,062 full-time fully qualified GPs since 2015 and we now have far too few GPs looking after greater numbers of patients, all while the patient profile in England is changing as people live longer managing increasingly complex conditions.’

Top complaints in 2022/23

GP Surgeries 

1. Clinical treatment: 15,512

2. Communications: 14,309

3. Staff attitudes, behaviour and values: 13,610 

4. Appointment availability and length: 11,437

5. Other: 11,300

6. Prescription issues: 10,107

7. Obtaining an appointment: 8,559 

8. Waiting time for appointment: 3,571

9.  Delay in failure to refer: 2,756

10. Repeat prescription process: 2,226

 

Dental Practices

1. Clinical treatment: 4,306

2. Appointment availability and length: 2,326

3. Removal from list: 2,034

4. Communications: 2,022

5. Charging and costs: 1,523

6. Staff attitudes, behaviour and values: 1,278 

7. Other: 1,023

8. Waiting time for appointment: 896

9. Obtaining an appointment: 378

10. Care planning: 302 

 

Hospital and Community Health Services

1. Communications: 30,484

2. Patient care including nutrition and hydration: 22,640

3. Staff values and behaviour: 19,081

4. Other: 8,935

5. Admissions, discharge and transfers: 8,901 

6. Appointments including delays and cancellations: 8.789

7. Access to treatment or drugs: 7,342

8. Trust Administration: 4,813

9. Ambulance transport: 4,400

10. Waiting times: 4,392 

 



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