Medical Negligence News

Complaints against the NHS see Year-on-Year Increase

Posted on: November 29th, 2014 by Medical Negligence

According to data released by the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman, complaints against the NHS have risen by almost 8 percent in the past year.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is an independent body to whom complaints against the NHS in England are made when patients or families have had a substandard experience in an NHS hospital, and the hospital has failed to satisfactorily deal with their complaint.

The PHSO has just released the first in a series of reports in which the volume of complaints against the NHS is broken down into the type of complaint that is made, against which NHS Trust the complaint is made and how many are accepted for investigation.

The figures released in the first report show that in the past twelve months written complaints against the NHS have risen from 162,019 in 2012/13 to 174,872 in 2013/14 and that 44 percent of the complaints that were accepted for investigation were upheld.

The most frequent causes of complaints were clinical care and treatment, a lack of communication, diagnoses (including failure to diagnose, delay in diagnosis, and misdiagnosis) and staff attitude. 28 percent of all complaints against the NHS were attributable to hospital failing to adequately apologise after mistakes had been made – double the percentage of 2012/13.

The most complaints received by PHSO against an NHS Trust were against Barts Health NHS Trust in London, who finished on top of the complaints table with 2,451 grievances. 12 per cent of those investigated were upheld, and a spokesperson for the NHS Trust said:

“As the largest NHS Trust in England, with over two million patient contacts a year, we would expect to see a proportionally higher rate of complaints when compared to other NHS Trusts. We take all complaints seriously and work with our patients to ensure they are treated in a swift, sensitive and compassionate manner.”

The Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust had the largest percentage of medical incidents investigated by the PHSO, while the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases NHS Foundation Trust in Bath seemed to have the most satisfied patients, with only 12 complaints made during 2013/2014.

Commenting on the figures, Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “These results should remind the NHS about the need for a more personalised approach to care that welcomes feedback, rather than becoming defensive. It is this culture change that is needed if services are to be improved for everyone.

“We know that poor communications, errors with diagnosis and poor care and treatment are the most common reasons why people complain to us about their hospital treatment. We hope NHS leaders use the data in this report to identify themes, and recurring problems in order to understand what they have done well and how they can improve their complaint handling.”

The full content of the report can be accessed on the Ombudsman´s website.