The Medical Defence Union (MDU), a membership body offering expert medico-legal advice to nearly half the UK’s doctors, has been notified by its members of well over 300 complaints since lockdown began on 23 March. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg as the MDU doesn’t know about all of complaints received by doctors.
As a result of its members’ experience since lockdown, the MDU is calling for the public to consider the additional pressures that complaints about NHS Covid-19 care will put on NHS services.
Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU head of advisory services said today:
‘We’re really surprised about how many complaints about the pandemic our members have asked for our support with and the types of issues being raised during this short period. Complaints numbers are a little down on what we’d normally see, but we expected a bigger drop given the public’s grateful recognition of the incredibly challenging circumstances our members are working in.’
Examples of complaints related to the pandemic, many of which involve GP practices, include:
Patients being unhappy about aspects of the shielding process.
Prescriptions for non-essential medication.
Patients unhappy not to be able to see a doctor in person for a minor existing condition.
Complaints about the doctor’s manner during phone consultations such as not addressing the patient correctly, lack of clarity or not enough information provided.
That PPE made communication difficult or that it was not worn or was inadequate.
Dr Fryar continued: ‘The MDU’s role is to help members respond to complaints. All must be investigated, as some could be an early indication of a problem that could be fixed.
‘This takes time and, during the Covid-19 pandemic, most doctors are under extreme pressure and for many their working circumstances are far from ideal.
‘We are concerned about the additional pressures on our members at a time of extraordinary upheaval when it’s far from business as usual. Even if complaints don’t need an immediate response during the pandemic, they’re diverting doctors’ attention and can cause additional stress for medical professionals. They and their colleagues need to be allowed to concentrate on providing a safe service for all patients.’
Dr Fryar says the MDU is publishing this information because it wants the public to know what is happening.
‘Our message is: if you were clapping for the NHS on Thursday, remember we are all in this together. The need to investigate complaints and respond will divert doctors’ attention away from the urgent Covid-19 work. It will continue to do this as the NHS tries to get back to ‘normal’ even after lockdown is eased. Doctors are working all hours, often in difficult conditions, and possibly at great personal risk. Making complaints about care that you think was less than ideal because of the extraordinary demands on clinicians during the pandemic may not be the best way to protect the NHS.’
The MDU is a not-for-profit organisation wholly dedicated to our members’ interests. Our team is led and staffed by doctors with real-life experience of the pressures and challenges faced in practice.
We offer our members expert guidance, personal support and robust defence in addressing medico-legal issues, complaints and claims. Our customised services range from legal assistance to indemnity to appropriate CPD.
Dawn Boyall, Jessica Hammonds, Fernanda Nidecker in the MDU’s press office
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