Complaint against: A GP in the North Wales Health Authority area - Summary
Health Service Ombudsman for Wales
Investigations about aspects of the NHS complaints procedure
Case No. W.6/98-99
General Practitioner's response to the report of an independent review (IR) panel
Whether the GP's letter to the complainant, Miss X, after the panel was inappropriate and insensitive.
A GP in the North Wales Health Authority area
Summary of case
In February 1998, at the request of the Health Authority, the GP wrote to Miss X following receipt of the IR panel's report of a complaint Miss X had made about her. In her letter, the GP disputed some of the panel's findings; and she did not indicate what action, if any, she intended to take on the panel's recommendations. Miss X complained that the GP's response was inappropriate and insensitive.
The Ombudsman found that, unlike with hospital complaints, in which the body complained about is required to write to the complainant about the action to be taken on any recommendation made by an IR panel, there is no similar provision in the Secretary of State's Directions to health authorities on dealing with complaints about family health service practitioners. There is, however, provision in the Welsh Office guidance on the operation of the NHS complaints procedure for chief executives to invite GPs to respond to IR panel reports. In the light of that the Health Authority had asked the GP to 'respond to the concerns raised and recommendations made'. The Ombudsman accepted that the GP had written in good faith; and considered that she was encouraged to respond in the way she did by the wording of the chief executive's letter. He concluded, however, that it was wrong for the GP to continue to argue her case; and he upheld the complaint.
The Ombudsman invited the Health Authority to reconsider the wording of such letters to GPs in the future. He also raised with the Welsh Office and the Department of Health the apparent anomaly in the Secretary of State's Directions.