The highest number of complaints from NHS patients are about failings in clinical care and the attitude of staff, according to an ombudsman’s report.
The health Service Ombudsman Ann Abraham’s first annual review of NHS complaint handling in England found that a total of more than 15,000 complaints were recieved by the ombudsman in 2009-10.
Over 6,000 complaints were received about hospital, specialist and teaching trusts – more than any other kind of NHS organisation.
While 3,700 complaints were regarding clinical care and treatment, just over 1,000 – or 10 per cent – related to staff attitude. Just under 1,000 were complaints about diagnosis, while only around 200 were about waiting times.
Only 346 complaints were accepted by the ombudsman for investigation - to be accepted they have to made in writing and local complaints procedures must have been exhausted.
Chief executive of National Voices Jeremy Taylor said that while the ombudsman sits at the apex of the complaints system and should not deal with a large number of cases, it was a concern that so many complaints were judged innapropriate. He said: “One person’s innapropriate complaint is another persons confusion at the complaints system.”
The report also found that complaints were often not handled properly at a local level, in 19 per cent of cases patients said they had been given a “poor explanation” by NHS staff after complaining.
It said that in some cases “poor complaint handling constituted maladministration or injustice for the complainant, even if we do not uphold their original complaint about the NHS service”.
Ms Abraham said in her forword to the report: “Many of the lessons that can be learnt from complaints are straightforward and cost little or nothing to implement at local level: a commitment to apologising when things go wrong; clear and prompt explanations of what has happened; improved record keeping and better information for patients about how to complain.”
Top 10 complained against NHS organisations