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At a time when healthcare workers are already under intense pressure to resume NHS services and deal with a second wave of COVID-19 infections, unfortunately some may find they also face complaints from patients, and litigation or even regulatory investigations.

GPs and other healthcare professionals should always keep in mind the need for maintaining accurate medical notes in case of future complaints or claims against them. The impact of the pandemic on NHS working practices has made this particularly important. Claims may arise from issues related to unavoidable delays in secondary care referrals and difficulties in accessing face-to-face appointments.

Understandably, being the subject of a complaint often causes significant distress. Knowing what to do and where to turn for support can help ease anxieties.

Where to turn for help in the event of a complaint or claim

Contact us at Medical Defense Society as soon as you receive a complaint or notice of a potential claim against you, or if an incident arises that you anticipate may cause a future claim. We will guide you through the relevant process. We deal with each case individually and the response will depend on the nature of the complaint or claim.

In less serious cases, you may only need advice on how to respond to a letter or complaint. In that case our GP board will often be able to help you respond appropriately.

You may also wish to confide in senior members of your GP practice. Sharing the experience with a colleague can help to keep the problem in perspective and many less serious complaints can be investigated and resolved internally, within the GP surgery.

Support for complex or serious cases

More complex cases may require support from our medico-legal team. If you receive notice of a potential claim against you, it is important to seek professional help. Contact us at Medical Defense Society immediately. Avoid writing to the claimant’s solicitors or contacting the patient directly – we will communicate with the claimant’s solicitors on your behalf.

Of course, doctors have a duty to provide the best possible care in any situation, but it may be reassuring to know that for the most serious cases in which fitness to practice concerns are investigated, GMC guidance takes into account the unprecedented circumstances created by COVID-19.

Further support

If you need counselling or support with the emotional impact of dealing with a complaint or claim, the following resources may be helpful:

NHS Practitioner Health: a free, confidential service for doctors and dentists across England
• BMA: Doctor Support Service for doctors going through GMC investigations
• GMC provides links to various support resources
• Royal Medical Benevolent Fund: online wellbeing resource for medics

For advice and support in the event of a claim, please notify us as soon as possible at Medical Defense Society. Our medico-legal advisory team is ready to help.