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15,000 complaints to NHS watchdog last year


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

OrganisationComplaints received in 2009-10
Barts and The London NHS Trust146
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust112
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust112
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust102
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust93
King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust90
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust89
South London Healthcare NHS Trust88
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust87
Devon PCT84

Readers' comments (9)

  • To be frightfully honest, I feel hospitals turn nurses into uncaring robots.
    I work among people who have no urgency about their job, or channel their authority the wrong way. I feel nurses believe they have some kind of innate or spiritual power/hold over the patient and it is disgraceful. Nurses do not deserve to get a pay rise, and its right that they shouldn't. They need to master the basics of human care and people skills before that.
    It is for this reason I am in the process of training to enable me a higher position/role so I can be heard and make some drastic changes to the most dubious health care provider since back-street abortionists from Dickens' times.

    From, a concerned nurse.

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  • You have obviously not worked in stressful clinical areas, where you have been pushed to the limit and relatives are demanding and unreasonable..!!!! Of course nurses deserve a pay rise. If and when we get one, I presume you won't accept yours, as you must be happy with your pay.

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  • Michael, what a cruel and thoughtless statement aimed at nurses. You surely cannot come from a background of acute nursing care or you would recognise the pressures and unrealistic targets that are placed on nurses shoulders. I suggest you scrap your 'training' and follow something more suited to you such as bailiff/slaughterhouse worker/tax collector/etc.

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  • I am shocked to see that Guy's, of world renown and whom I associate my name with having been born there of parents who studied medicine and nursing there and who trained myself there as a nurse and then worked there in this and an administrative capacity for over eight years. All associated with this one time flagship hospital, respected by doctors patients and others from all over the world, felt they had received the very best possible training available and now it seems to have gone totally downhill and I wonder if this has anything to do with the restructuring and amalgamation with other teaching hospitals. I hope it will soon return to its number one position in the world ranking so that those of us who trained and worked there can once again
    affirm this with pride and those who have damaged this reputation make ammends to right this deplorable situation.

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  • @ Michael you sure have not seen ITU nurses who work day and night and save 100s of lives and they sure deserve pay rise......and 4 ur information pts and relatives are more than gr8ful. I don't know in what kind of world in are living in...I agree with anonymous 23-Oct-2010 1:12 you need to change ur career asap

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  • I wonder if anyone (apart from us that is) ever equates any rise/levels in complaints to the rise in unreasonable demands of patients and their families or the unreasonable pressures put on staff? Rather than simply blaming staff?

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  • Perhaps Michael Wannamaker is deliberately trying to provoke a reaction?
    There have always been uncaring ,negligent nurses, the sort he refers to, but they are far outweighed in numbers by the others: dedicated kind and drowning in beaurocracy in a system which offers them no support,but is quick to blame them for any mistakes,whether its their fault or not.
    I too trained at Guys and saw good and bad nurses alike - mostly good though. There was far less paperwork and we were trained by the hospital not the university, and taught to put the patient at the centre of it all.
    Those in 'influential' roles quickly forget what its like to be at the bottom,trying to deliver the care which those at the top have decided upon without real consultation
    Sooo..... Mr Wannamaker when you get into your high paying influential, presumably management role will you please raise a shout for those of us who care greatly about the patients and enable us to do a better job not beat us into the ground as they- and you - are doing at the moment.

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  • I totally agree with michael.I recently had an operation and the care I had was the worst.Day 1 and feeling very tired and sore I had a nurse demand NOW to get up and out of bed.When I asked her to give me a minute she closed the privacy curtain and came right into my face and hissed with her cigarette breath she wasnt taking any of my c**p and not on her watch.I was then left alone for 90mins ,curtain still closed ,until a cleaner came and opened said curtain so she could mop the floor.Care was handed to another nurse and for the next 2 days every time first nurse passed my bed she would make silly faces at me! Another complaint I have is patients not getting meds at the right time and myself having to remind a night nurse about iv antibiotics she Forgot to give me,patients awaiting up to 30 mins for a nurse to come to them ,moaning about everything.They all said yes in a minute to everything.When it was time for nurse break though they were outta the door like wild fire.I have never known such lazy/uncaring nurses in my life and rather than standing around the nurses station going on about more pay more staff needed on wards ,talking about who went where and did what on weekend and whos going on first break ,getting on with the job OF LOOKING AFTER ILL PATIENTS

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  • Hi
    I am very concerned that the comments above are so aggressive, mainly because they come from fellow professionals but also because they come from another human being doing the best they can to get through a very difficult life!
    Of course there are bad nursing practices and unpleasant people within the profession (as there are in all walks of life) but i believe on the whole people mean well and would be very upset to hear that a patient or relative or fellow professional felt they were uncaring and unpleasant.
    I feel the staff are under a lot of pressure and the levels of staff in most areas are very poor.(The government talk the talk but do not walk the walk in regards to staffing levels)
    Did you (Michelle Williams) make a formal complaint, i would have done and i would have expected action immediately! This is unacceptable behaviour regardless of the pressures of work!
    I care about all people regardless of what label they wear and feel everyone should look at the person and consider how they would want to be treated....this would assure the best care!!

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