Record increase in NHS complaints

Image caption,
There has been an increase in NHS work in the past decade

Written complaints about NHS hospital and community services in England has seen the biggest annual rise since records began over a decade ago.

There were more than 100,000 complaints in 2009/2010, a 13.4% increase on the previous year.

The largest number of complaints were about specialist doctors, followed by nurses, midwives and health visitors.

But the NHS has done more work in the past decade, and the complaints procedure has been streamlined.

The data from the NHS Information Centre, which first started collating statistics on complaints 12 years ago, also included separate figures on family health services, which incorporates general practice and dentistry.

These increased by 4.4% from the previous year to 50,755.

Getting busy

More than 40,000 complaints on hospital services related to "all aspects of clinical treatment".

A further 12,000 letters were written about the attitude of staff, while nearly 11,000 complaints were received about delays or cancellations to outpatient clinics.

Media caption,
Kieran Mullan from the Patients Association: "We're not surprised to see a continued rise in the number of complaints"

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: "This report shows the biggest annual rise in written complaints about NHS hospitals and community services for 12 years.

"However it is important to bear in mind that there has been a substantial increase in NHS activity in England over time.

"For example, information from two of our other data collections show that hospital admissions increased by 28% between 1998-99 and 2008-09, while GP consultations increased by an estimated 44% between 1998 and 2008."

The complaints procedure was also changed last year to make registering dissatisfaction more straightforward.

Health Minister Paul Burstow said: ""The biggest annual rise in complaints in 12 years is the public's verdict of the last Government's NHS record.

"The Coalition Government is determined to put patients at the centre of everything the NHS does. Quality and outcomes will be the measures by which the service is judged."

Katherine Murphy, head of the lobby group the Patients Association said the rise in complaints came as no surprise.

"This report shows that the NHS still has a long way to go in responding positively to criticism from its users and learning from and implementing change in response to patients' complaints."

Below are some of your comments on this issue

I started orthodontic treatment in November 2000 having a fixed braced fitted in February 2001. My treatment was delayed between 2002 and 2005 due to no NHS orthodontist locally willing to take adult patients. However, following a complaint early in 2005, an orthodontist took me on as a patient. This orthodontist has just retired but due to a complaint I made about being told to pay £198 for a removable retainer as the fixed one I have is causing me problems I have been told no further treatment will be carried out until the complaint has been dealt with. The current complaint was made 10 July and I have been told it will not be looked at until the end of September. I have a removable brace on my lower teeth and even a check-up on this brace has been refused. I am sick to death of the delays and the fact that my brace should have originally been on for no more than two years.

Tina, Preston

I complained to the local PCT about my health centre where the receptionists were rude and aggressive, the waits excessive both in making appointments and in the waiting room. At least two of the GPs were arrogant, dismissive, superior and disdainful of patients, and, the last straw, was access to the surgery. I had to walk a quarter of a mile which is not easy when you are asthmatic and have mobility problems. I went elsewhere.

Jan, Nottingham

My neighbour, an elderly and infirm widower who lives alone, had a fall in his home recently and was taken to hospital by ambulance. As he was taken as an emergency he he had not packed an overnight bag or anything. On arrival at the hospital the NHS staff took all the clothes he was wearing, including his pants, shoes and socks, and these were never seen again. The poor old man was well dressed at the time of his fall, with good quality clothes and shoes that he cannot afford to replace. He was at no time about to die so it was not as if he would never need his clothes again. He felt extra sad and worried while in the hospital as no matter how well he felt he could not leave as he had no clothes or shoes. He repeatedly put in requests for his belongings to be returned to him and these were completely ignored and he was told that the bag they had been put in had been lost. He has not been offered any monetary compensation for this negligence and lack of care. This put extra mental and emotional strain on a frail and lonely man who does not have a lot of money to spend on clothes and is pretty much unable to walk so cannot go shopping easily. For him to lose his clothes, underpants, and shoes like this was very traumatic for him and this ought to have have been addressed as a serious matter by the hospital staff. I am appalled at this.

Penny, Stourbridge

I work within the NHS and can say that I am not surprised. There is way too much red tape and needless paperwork to fill in. Unfortunately in most trusts these days emphasis by the higher management is on costs and funding with care for the patient being low on the priority list.

Debbie, Sunderland

My wife has used the NHS Mental Health Service for the last 15 months. The quality of service delivered through this period has been appalling. I complained and, as a result, have spent months writing letters and having meetings. I am far from happy with both the service from the NHS and the complaints procedure we have experienced to date. I must say this refers only to hospital and hospital related out-patient services. The support an understanding from our GP has been exemplary at all times.

Richard, Leicester

I am still not getting my issues resolved regarding my husband's treatment. In the last two weeks alone I have had to write three follow-up letters, numerous emails and make phone calls and still my sick husband is not in a specialist unit receiving the medical help he needs but at home with me coping on my own with very little support.

Angela, Peterborough

It´s OK providing more appointments but what´s the point if the staff, service and procedures are still bad? Speaking as one of the many complainants who have yet to receive a satisfactory response not just the lip service I have so far received.

Disillusioned Patient, Essex