Complaints about GPs and dentists in London double in a decade, figures suggest

GPs are having to deal with more patients while their own numbers dwindle
GPs are having to deal with more patients while their own numbers dwindle

Complaints about GPs and dentists in London have more than doubled in a decade, figures revealed show, as surgeries struggle to cope with a rise in demand and decline in staff.

A total of 16,555 written complaints were made about primary care and dental services in the capital in the year up to September, a rise of 153 per cent on the figure reported in 2013.

North West London saw the highest number of complaints about GPs of any region in the capital, according to figures published by the NHS.

Nationally, there were 125,584 total complaints about primary care including GPs and dentists in 2022-23, an increase of 138 per cent from ten years ago.

A fifth of the complaints about GPs centred on waiting times for an appointment, being able to obtain one, or the availability and length of appointments.

Separate figures published by NHS Digital show that the number of full-time GPs working in London has fallen by 3 per cent in a year.

There were 4,091 permanent qualified family doctors working in the health service in the capital last month, a drop of 134 on the year before.

The number of patients has risen by 1.7 per cent in the same period, with a total of 10,919,024 patients registered in surgeries in the NHS London region as of last month. London surgeries are currently treating an average of 9,913 patients, which is 317 more than the year before.

The figures suggest that the workload for GPs is growing as staffing levels decline, putting more pressure on surgeries ahead of the busy winter period.

Family doctors in the capital delivered nearly 5 million appointments throughout September, with 43 per cent taking place on the same day and 11 per cent of patients waiting longer than two weeks.

In the South West, more than a quarter of patients (27 per cent) waited for more than a fortnight for an appointment.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said of the figures: “It is sad and troubling to hear that GPs have been receiving a higher number of complaints due to difficulty in access.

“Our patients should be able to see a GP when they need one and we share their frustration when they struggle to get appointments.

“The unfortunate reality is that our hardworking and committed GPs often end up the fall guys for the Government’s failure to appropriately resource and finance primary care.”

An NHS spokesman said: “Staff across the NHS are working hard to cope with increased demand with GPs delivering half a million more appointments each week compared to pre-pandemic, while NHS dentists carried out 32.5 million courses of treatment in 2022-2023 – up almost a quarter since the previous year.

“In line with our commitment to recover access to primary care, the NHS published a plan earlier this year, which includes upgrading telephone systems to make it easier for people to contact their general practice while more than 31,000 additional staff have joined GP teams since 2019 to deliver even more appointments.”