Following multiple lockdowns and suspension of non-urgent services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK has seen delays in diagnosis and increased waiting times continuing into 2023. Recent data from the 2022 GP Patient Survey suggests almost half of patients who tried to acquire a GP appointment did not get an appointment when they wanted or sooner¹.
With this in mind, and following a 23% increase in searches for the term “complaints about GP” between December 2020 and December 2022², we have delved into the number of GP complaints across UK regions and the reasons patients are unhappy with the service they receive.
The new ranking is based on insight obtained through Freedom of Information requests sent to NHS England³. According to the study, the UK regions with the highest number of GP complaints submitted during October 2021 and October 2022 are:
- East of England – 877
- North East & Yorkshire – 850
- London – 761
- South East – 577
- Midlands – 459
- South West – 285
- North West – 271
- Greater Manchester – 184
The research found that the East of England, which contains Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, has had the highest number of GP complaints in the last 12 months, with a total of 877 complaints made to GP practices across the region.
According to a recent survey⁴, nearly half (43%) of patients at a Bedford-based health centre didn’t have a good experience, with nearly three-quarters (74%) of patients finding it difficult to get through to the GP practice by phone. Alongside this, almost two in five (37%) people from the health centre in Bedford said they hadn’t had enough support from local services or organisations in the last 12 months to help manage their long-term conditions, highlighting the pandemic’s impact on non-Covid related illnesses.
In second position is North East & Yorkshire, following closely behind with a total of 850 complaints made to GP practices across the region. The 2022 GP Patient Survey⁵ confirms nearly half (49%) of patients at a Newcastle-based health centre were offered a choice of appointment when they last tried to make a general practice appointment, and over three-quarters (78%) of patients were unable to see or speak to their preferred GP when they would like to. Overall, one-third (31%) of patients described their overall experience as ‘not good’ at said practice.
With 761 complaints, London takes third place, followed closely by the South East (577) and the Midlands, which received 459 complaints.
Karina Malhotra, founder and managing director of Acumentice, summarises: “It’s fair to say that the average patient and GP relationship needs improvement; however, this is a symptom of the pressure that is being faced by all parts of the NHS. Due to the pandemic and following increasing demands, an immense strain has been placed on GP practices and their staff over the last two years.
“With this in mind, it’s essential that GPs and the wider NHS start reviewing at a granular level the challenges that they are facing, as there is no silver bullet solution to these issues. In some cases, utilising technology and data effectively may improve matters, but in others, it may be largely a workforce challenge.”
At Acumentice, we are working closely with Integrated Care Systems and their primary care systems to ascertain their individual access challenges to ensure 2023 can deliver better results for NHS staff and patients both.
Methodology & Sources
The GP Complaint ranking is based on insight obtained through Freedom of Information requests sent to NHS England. We requested the total number of formal complaints made in England regarding GP practices submitted between 1st October 2021 and 1st October 2022, broken down by region.
- GP Patient Survey: https://www.gp-patient.co.uk/downloads/2022/GPPS_2022_National_report_PUBLIC.pdf
- SeRanking – Search volume data from December 2020 v December 2022
- Data received from NHS England by a Freedom of Information request which provided the total number of complaints made in England regarding GP practices submitted between 1st October 2021 and 1st October 2022, broken down by regions.