Dealing with a patient’s gripe

Just when you were having a good day – you get a complaint. Dr Greg Dollman advises on the rules and the options when this happens in private practice.

Complaints against doctors are now more common. Social media and a greater public awareness of complaints procedures may be contributing factors. 

Sometimes there is a basis to the concern, sometimes not. Comp­laints against independent practitioners include concerns about the clinical care provided, a perceived breakdown in communication or they are related to administrative matters. 

It is widely accepted that any expression of dissatisfaction about the provision of healthcare should be considered to be a complaint, and investigated and responded to accordingly.

A patient who has paid for their medical care will expect prompt resolution of their concerns. 

As well as seeking a detailed response to a complaint, they may request:

 A refund of money paid;

 Re-imbursement for the costs of a second opinion;

 Make a claim for financial compensation – or damages – for loss or injury arising from the care provided. 

Understandably, a private doctor will wish to resolve such dissatisfaction at the earliest opportunity.

Doctors, of course, know that they must make the care of a patient their first concern and that they must treat patients politely and considerately. 

But how should you deal with a complaint and how do you manage a complainant’s expectations?