The quality of out-of-hours care offered by GPs has come under fresh scrutiny after new figures revealed a marked rise in the number of complaints and compensation claims since 2005.
A total of 517 complaints were logged by patients who were dissatisfied with the out-of-hours care they received in 2007-08, up from 337 in 2005-06, while the number of compensation claims also rose considerably from 41 in 2005-06 to 73 in 2007-08.
According to the Medical Defence Union (MDU), most of the complaints (23% in 2007-08) were from patients who had suffered from a delay or failure to diagnose a condition, resulting in 52 of the 73 compensation claims that were made during the same period.
Around 15% of complaints related to the death of a patient, as did 17 claims, while 5% were over failure to make a home visit and 14% (71 cases) were about poor bedside manner.
Out-of-hours care has been under the spotlight following the case of 70-year-old kidney patient David Gray who was given a fatal dose of diamorphine by a German doctor who had been flown in to work as a locum.
Dr Stephen Green, Head of Risk Management at the MDU, said: "We are advising out-of-hours doctors to pay particular attention to the need for clear, unambiguous communication with patients and colleagues, including accurate and comprehensive note-taking and arranging follow-up if necessary."