Speaking up

17th April 2015 by Rachel Birch

Speaking up

As a sessional GP you may not feel comfortable raising concerns about a colleague, but patient safety comes first so it is important that you speak up, writes Charlotte Hudson, Content Editor at MPS.

You are a salaried GP in a busy practice. After three months you start to notice that the quality of care by one of your employing partners is substandard. Not only are you noticing this, but patients are also talking amongst themselves and to the secretaries.

What should you do?

If you come across a practitioner that you feel could potentially compromise patient care, you should bear in mind your professional obligation to protect patients from the risk of harm posed by another colleague’s performance, conduct or health. The GMC makes it clear that the safety of patients must come first at all times – this means that if you have concerns about a colleague, you must take prompt, appropriate action.

Overcoming obstacles to reporting

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Related content

"Since joining NASGP Locum Chambers I have noted a positive change which I feel has made a significant contribution in both my professional and personal life.

LocumDeck's booking system puts me in touch with a large number of surgeries. I work part-time and the software is intricately tailored to facilitate working at my pace and choice.

In addition, I have access to the NASGP Locum Chambers' supporting infrastructure such as the Chambers Manager through whom all my admin work (like generating invoices and pension forms) is organised. In the past this felt like a load. Now I feel that my time is 'freed up' and so I have a better work-life balance. Working with NASGP Locum Chambers has simplified my life."

Dr Smita Iyer, GP, Essex

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