More GP and dentist complaints in St Helens

Complaints about GPs and dentists in St Helens have risen above levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

File photo dated 23/04/12 of an NHS logo, as NHS England is urging people to use its online service in a bid to reduce "record" demand on accident and emergency departments.
File photo dated 23/04/12 of an NHS logo, as NHS England is urging people to use its online service in a bid to reduce "record" demand on accident and emergency departments.

Complaints about GPs and dentists in St Helens have risen above levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

Massive pressure has been put on the nation's GP and dental surgeries since the start of the pandemic, which led to higher demand for medical services and backlogs building for appointments.

New data from NHS Digital shows 389 complaints were made about GPs and dentists in the former NHS St Helens CCG area in the year to March – up 19% from the 327 made in the year to March 2019.

NHS Digital did not collate data on complaints for 2019-20 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Of last year's complaints, 115 (30%) were fully upheld – meaning the medical provider was ultimately found to be in the wrong.

This was down from 2018-19, when 41% of complaints were upheld.

Nationally, GPs accounted for the majority of complaints across the two sectors, with 99,500 made in 2021-22 – up 37% from 72,400 in 2018-19.

Dentists saw a smaller rise, with the number of complaints increasing by 2% from 14,100 to 14,300 over the same period.

The Royal College of GPs, which represents the profession, said that GPs were "doing their absolute best in exceptionally difficult circumstances".

Profession Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the organisation, said that "the vast majority of patients are satisfied with the care they received".

In response she called on the Government to remedy the "spiralling workload and workforce pressures" faced by GPs, urging it to take on a new recruitment and retention strategy to deal with staffing issues.

The British Medical Association, a trade union for medical staff, said it understands patients' frustrations with the health service – but that GP practices are currently facing "unbearable pressures".

Across England, the most common reason for complaining about a GP surgery last year was 'communications', listed on 15% of complaints, while for dentists, the largest proportion of complaints were about 'clinical treatment' (24%).

Separate figures, also from NHS Digital, show GPs carried out 32 million appointments in October – the highest monthly figure since November 2017, when records are first available.

An NHS England spokesperson said GP staff are working "non-stop" to provide patients with the care they need.

“While seven out of 10 patients report a good experience at their practice, the NHS is determined to make it easier to get an appointment, which is why we have recruited over 21,200 additional staff since 2019 and improved practice telephone systems so that people can speak to staff more quickly and easily,” they said.