§ Mr. Stratton Mills
asked the Minister of Health (1) how many complaints have been made about doctors by patients since October, 1964; how many of these 440W were considered by the Health Service Board and how many by an independent tribunal; and of these how many were found to be unjustified;
(2) what steps he is taking to prevent trivial complaints by patients about doctors.
§ Mr. K. Robinson:
National Health Service general practitioners in England and Wales are in contract with Executive Councils. Complaints requiring investigation are dealt with by the Medical Service Committee of the Executive Council concerned, and 1,919 such complaints by patients were investigated between 1st October, 1964 and 31st December, 1967. The practitioner was not found in breach of his terms of service in 1,687 cases, more than half of which did not lead to a hearing. The existing procedure provides that if a complaint does not relate to a doctor's terms of service, or is frivolous or vexatious, he is not troubled with it and that in other cases, a hearing need not be held if the facts are satisfactorily established by means of correspondence. I hope soon to issue advice on a new informal procedure for handling complaints by patients which is designed to ensure that formal investigations are carried out only where serious issues arise.
During the same period, 12 cases were referred by the Executive Councils to the National Health Service Tribunal, which deals only with the issue whether a practitioner should continue to provide services under Part IV of the National Health Service Act, 1946. In six of these cases, the doctor was allowed so to continue.