The revised NHS complaints system is making it more difficult for people to complain about general practice, Scottish health councils have warned.

A generally positive report on the first year of the new system says 'a number' of health councils have seen patients struck off for complaining about GPs.

It also found that in some cases primary care staff 'deliberately obstructed' the complaints process, which places great emphasis on local resolution.

The Chief Officers Group of Health Councils in Scotland and Scottish Association of Health Councils were given Scottish Office funding to investigate the impact of the new procedure. All 16 Scottish health councils were canvassed and reported that 'a cultural change' had been brought about, although this was 'not yet secured'.

There was 'considerable scepticism' about the independence of convenors on independent review panels, when local resolution failed. And the new system has led to health councils taking on more complex cases as simpler ones are resolved earlier, leading to calls for more resources.

Report of Health Councils' Complaints Project, The Scottish Association of Health Councils. Executive summaries free, full copies 5, from 0131- 220 4104.