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Out-of-hours service receives low level of GP-related complaints – study

A study published in the British Journal of General Practice titled ‘Characterising patient complaints in out-of-hours general practice: A retrospective cohort study in Ireland’ examined patient complaints made from 2011 to 2016 at the OOH service in Dublin.

Of 445,598 telephone contacts, some 303,085 resulted in face-to-face GP consultations.

“Of 234 patients who made 298 complaints, 185 (79 per cent) related to GP care. The remainder related to nurse triage, other staff and management issues,” the study found.

A total of 109 (46 per cent) related to children aged 18 years or under and 134 (58 per cent) of complainants were female. The number of GP-related complaints amounted to just 0.61 complaints per 1,000 GP consultations.

“Most complaints were in relation to clinical care problems, largely diagnosis and prescribing. Common themes included unmet management expectations and clinical examination dissatisfaction… Following internal investigation, 158 (85 per cent) of GP-related complaints were managed effectively by the out-of-hours service,” the study revealed.

“Patient complaints can provide valuable insights into the quality and safety of clinical care. Studies examining the epidemiology of complaints in out-of-hours general practice internationally are limited.”

The authors concluded: “The majority of complaints related to clinical care problems and were successfully managed locally. Expectation management may be an important way to mitigate the risk of complaints.”

The existence of a robust and well-run GP-led complaints process and pathway for patients helped to effectively manage complaints at the service.

The north Dublin service operates five treatment centres in Ballymun, Coolock, Swords, North Strand and Hartstown. In 2016, just under 100,000 patients contacted the service.

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