New figures show rise in complaints against GP and dental practices in South Yorkshire following pandemic

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Of the resolved cases, over one third were upheld following an investigation.

The number of complaints against GP and dental practices in South Yorkshire rose following the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

It follows a trend across England, where written complaints made against primary care providers have risen by 35 per cent since 2018-19, largely driven by a 44 per cent increase in the number of complaints made against GPs.

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The Royal College of GPs said the national rise is "sad and troubling", but said the family doctor service has withered over the last decade, with no longer enough GPs to meet demand.

NHS England figures show 2,686 complaints were submitted against GPs, dentists and other primary care services in the NHS South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board area in 2022-23 – up from 2,090 in 2018-19.

Nationally, 18.1 million adults were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24 months to June 30 this year. (Photo by: PA/Radar)Nationally, 18.1 million adults were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24 months to June 30 this year. (Photo by: PA/Radar)
Nationally, 18.1 million adults were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24 months to June 30 this year. (Photo by: PA/Radar)

It meant every region across the country saw a rise in the number of complaints made.

Of the resolved cases, 35 per cent were upheld following an investigation.

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Nationally, 126,000 complaints were made – up from 120,000 the year before. Of them, 32 per cent were upheld, the lowest proportion since comparable records began in 2016-17.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "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 fund primary care.

"Everyone working in general practice is trying to do their very best for their patients, but in increasingly difficult circumstances.

An NHS sign on a fence outside a hospital in England. PIC: PAAn NHS sign on a fence outside a hospital in England. PIC: PA
An NHS sign on a fence outside a hospital in England. PIC: PA

"Our family doctor service has been allowed to wither on the vine for over a decade and we no longer have enough GPs to meet demand."

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Further NHS England figures show there were 27,302 full-time-equivalent GPs excluding those in training across England as of September – down from 28,486 in March 2019.

However, in South Yorkshire, the number of fully qualified FTE GPs has risen slightly from 680 to 690.

An NHS spokesperson said staff are "working hard to cope with increased demand", with GPs delivering half a million more appointments each week than before the pandemic.

"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," they added.

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The Department of Health and Social Care said it is making it easier for patients to see their GP, with 135,000 more appointments per working day offered in September than a year ago.

Some £240 million of funding has been announced to improve technology in GP surgeries to make it easier for patients to contact them, a spokesperson added.

They said: "We have more than 2,000 additional doctors and 31,000 extra staff than in 2019. We are making progress to boost NHS dental services and the number of children seen by NHS dentists rose by 14 per cent last year.

"Compared to the previous year, 1.7 million more adults and 800,000 more children are receiving NHS dental care and further measures to improve access to NHS dentists through our dental recovery plan will be set out shortly."

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