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NHS receives 562 written complaints per day

More than 35,000 medical complaints in family health services last year

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Patients in England are making as many as 562 written complaints to the NHS every day, according to new figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The annual count of written complaints made by (or on behalf of) patients, received between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015 showed there were 205,289 written complaints made that year overall – the equivalent of more than 3,900 complaints a week or 562 per day.

In family health services, which include GP practices and dental services, there were a total of 84,511 complaints in the year.

A spokesperson for the HSCIC said it was not possible to make clear comparisons with previous years figures because the response rate of data changed significantly from a 77% return rate from GPs in 2013-14 to a 94% response in 2014-15.

The overall numbers of medical complaints in the family health services group rose from 24,405 in 2013-14 to 35,276 in 2014-15, but the rise could have been due largely to the higher response rate.

More than a third (32,716) of these medical complaints, and the largest cause, were to do with clinical matters, followed by 20,052 complaints about communication/attitude and 18,007 complaints about practice administration.

Meanwhile, the data on hospital and community health services showed there were a total of 120,778 written complaints last year, a rise of 5.7% (6,470) on the previous year’s total of 114,308.

By far, the largest proportion of written complaints in this section of the data by profession was doctors, about whom 45.4% (54,885) of all complaints were made.

The next largest grouping was nursing, midwifery and health visiting, which accounted for 21.1% (25,433) of complaints by profession.

There was also a 23.2% rise in the number of complaints for trust administrative staff from 8,323 in 2013-14 to 10,253 in 2014-15.

Patients were increasingly more likely to complain often about appointments, delay/cancellation (outpatient), which increased by 1,722 (19.1%) from 9,038 in 2013-14 to 10,760 in 2014-15.

Almost half (53,438) of all hospital and community health services written complaints reported by subject area were to do with all aspects of clinical treatment.

Deputy parliamentary and health service ombudsman Mick Martin said: “We investigate more than 3,000 complaints a year about the NHS in England that haven’t been resolved locally. In almost two-thirds of those, people have felt let down by the complaints process.

“It is essential that NHS organisations listen to people when they say they are unhappy with their service and deal effectively and fairly with their complaints to ensure trust in the healthcare system remains high.”

Helen Birtwhistle, director of external affairs at the NHS Confederation, said: “Managers and clinicians work hard to ensure patients receive safe and timely care but we need to always make sure that we are learning from patients and saying sorry, while we continue to take robust action to solve problems that occur.”

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