Locum feedback and complaints

29th January 2015 by Sara Chambers

Locum feedback and complaints

There are many reasons why doctors working as locums may be more at risk of receiving a complaint. Sara Chambers, NASGP’s appraisal and revalidation lead, and Charlotte Hudson, writer at MPS, provide tips on protecting yourself from complaints and the current complaints process.

The key to most complaints is how they are handled early on at a local level. According to MPS in their helpful complaints series, studies show that most complainants have altruistic motives. An early, sincere apology showing an understanding of the problem that the patient experienced, and demonstrating that changes are in place to prevent it happening again, will often satisfy the complainant. In some cases, this will also lead to positive changes in practice – the ideal outcome for all.

Failure to fully get to grips with the complaint can lead to escalation to an independent review. Often, the Ombudsman finds that the reason for the original complaint is not upheld, but poor handling of the complaint process itself becomes the main problem experienced by the complainant. Very sad if you consider the additional stress and workload experienced by the staff involved.

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Related FAQs

How does the NHS complaints procedure work?

The NHS complaints system aims to be open and accountable, fair and proportionate and above all patient-focused. Practices must involve GP locums in handling complaints from the outset, even if they have left the organisation.

If a patient cannot resolve their complaint locally, they can take it forward to the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). Often, as a GP locum doctor, you will only learn of a complaint once it has escalated to PHSO. This is when you can contact us for advice.

It is important that you familiarise yourself with the current complaints procedure.




Northern Ireland

You should be aware of the complaints manager’s role in the practice and of your own role when it comes to complaints handling. Read “From the outside looking in”, written by Terri Bonnici, general practice complaints manager at MPS.

What do I do if I’m involved in a complaint?

  • Refer MPS complaint series.
  • Work closely with the practice complaints manager (usually the practice manager) and the responsible person (usually a partner) to understand the reason for the complaint and the motivation of the complainant.
  • If it becomes clear that some act or omission on your part is involved in the complaint, then prepare your response with help from your defence organisation.
  • Remember that the majority of complaints can be resolved locally with a sensitive, early apology, an acknowledgement of the problem and a description of what will be done differently to prevent the problem arising again.

How do I make a secure clinical handover?

  • If you see a patient of concern, always consider handing over your concerns to their named responsible or usual GP.
  • Document any verbal handover you make.
  • If the GP is unavailable to talk to, find out the practice’s communication procedures to hand over concerns.
  • Where possible use traceable, electronic messaging attached to the patient record via the clinical IT system. Loose pieces of paper and messages left at reception are liable to go missing.
  • Insist on being properly equipped to work in the practice. GPs need constant access to up-to-date information, equipment to help us with our assessments and knowledge about how to refer and arrange further treatment for our patients.
  • Make it part of your Terms and Conditions that you have access to a Practice Induction Pack, an induction tour of the building, an introduction to key staff and a point of contact for queries during your session.

How do I put a complaints strategy in place?

  • Prepare for complaints as part of your working life. Try to see them as an inevitable part of feedback that we all have to learn from.
  • Perhaps make this one of your PDP items to familiarise yourself with the NHS complaints procedure.
  • Make it a requirement in your Terms and Conditions that all employing practices will work closely with you in the event of a complaint. This will allow you access to records and a right to respond directly to the complainant if appropriate, or have active involvement in preparing and agreeing the response via the complaints manager.
  • Most practices will treat GP locums with respect and will want to learn lessons from complaints, but be aware of the risk of being scapegoated.

How do I reflect on a complaint?

You must declare at your appraisal if you have been involved in a formal complaint or if any cause for concern about your practice has been raised. Failure to disclose is considered a serious breach of probity.

Use the NASGP template to record your reflections and changes made as a result of the complaint.

Recording and reflecting on a complaint

Download – Word  Save as – Google Doc

Recording significant events – Standard

NASGP is committed to the system learning based approach to any form of adverse event, so a ‘standard’ event would be a situation you’ve come across that hasn’t lead to a serious untoward event. Just grabbed a new tube of dipsticks and spotted it’s two years past its ‘use by’ date (true story)? Then use one of these forms.

SEA – Recording significant events – Standard

Download – Word Save as – Google Doc

If you have been involved in a serious significant event that caused harm, or had the potential to cause harm, consider also looking at Recording significant events – Enhanced.

See also

Significant events and Swiss cheese

Recording significant events – Enhanced

If you have been involved in a serious significant event that caused harm, or had the potential to cause harm, you may find the process of enhanced significant event analysis helpful.

‘Significant event analysis’ here is different from a ‘significant event’ for the purposes of appraisal and revalidation; this is the name given to this very enlightened and useful form of incident analysis by its developers at NHS Education for Scotland and the Health Foundation.’

SEA – Enhanced significant event analysis

Download – Word Save as – Google Docs

If you have come across something that hasn’t yet led to any harm, try using our other AppraisalAid SEA ‘Standard’ template.

See also

Significant events and Swiss cheese

Appraisal during Covid 19

Now that appraisals are back, we’ve adapted AoMRC’s helpful pdf guide into a Google Doc and Word template.

Download – Word Save as – Google Doc

Toolkit | How do I notify NASGP Locum Chambers of a complaint against a member?

Please complete this form and email to the chambers manager.

Report a complaint

After the chambers has received this report.

  • We share it with the locum, who is supported by their Chambers Lead and Clinical Director.
  • When appropriate, we will discuss in an upcoming chambers clinical governance meeting with other chambers colleagues.
  • All learning points are documented on the form and shared with the practice and all chambers members involved in the discussion.

Download – Word Document Save as – Google Docs

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