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Written complaints about NHS nursing staff have increased by 9.8% in a year

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The number of written complaints made about nurses has gone up by nearly 10% in a year, according to health service latest data.

The nursing profession received 36,800 written complaints during 2016-17, representing 22.7% of all complaints involving a healthcare profession. It is an increase of 9.8% on last year’s total of 33,500.

“The largest proportion was attributed to medical with 41.1% followed by nursing at 22.7%”

NHS Digital

In contrast, there were 4,570 written complaints about midwifery staff and 452 about health visiting staff during 2016-17.

However, doctors received the largest number of written complaints of any profession. Meanwhile, scientists saw the largest rise in complaints received and clinical support staff the biggest decrease.

Overall, there were 208,400 written complaints received by the NHS during 2016-17 – up 4.9% on the previous year, according to figures released today by NHS Digital.

The body’s report – titled Data on Written Complaints in the NHS, 2016-17 – details the numbers of complaints about both primary and secondary care.

It shows a 9.7% increase in written complaints to GP and dental practices, compared with the previous year. In 2016-17, there were 90,600 primary care complaints, up from 82,600 in 2015-16.5.

Of these, 3,729 (4%) were about practice nurses and 1,040 about healthcare assistants – significantly less than complaints about GPs themselves or reception staff.

Meanwhile, there was a 1.4% year-on-year increase in secondary care complaints, with 117,800 received in 2016-17, up from 116,200 in 2015-16.

The areas with the highest overall percentage increases in all written complaints were Lancashire, the West Midlands, the North Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humber.

In contrast, the total number of complaints fell in the South Central region, the South West, and Cumbria and the North East.

The NHS Digital report also provides a breakdown of secondary care complaints by profession.

helen stokes lampard blog image

helen stokes lampard blog image

Helen Stokes-Lampard

Doctors were the subject of 66,500 (41.1%) of the 161,700 written complaints made involving a profession, an increase of 7.4% from 2015-16 when there were 61,900.

The highest percentage increase in written complaints was a 25.4% increase involving the scientific, therapeutic and technical profession, which in 2016-17 totalled 5,600 – up from 4,500 in 2015-16.

The highest percentage decrease in written complaints by profession was a 7.6% decrease for the clinical support staff profession, which in 2016-17 totalled 7,200 – down from 7,800 in 2015-16.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It is through patient feedback that GP teams can improve the care they deliver to their patients.

“However, GPs and our teams are buckling under the pressures of a huge increase in patient numbers,” she said. “Inevitably, this will occasionally impact on the service we can deliver and this can be frustrating for patients.

“We need the pledges in NHS England’s GP Forward View – to invest more in general practice and build the GP workforce – to be implemented as a matter of urgency.”

Rob Behrens

Rob Behrens

Robert Behrens

Robert Behrens, the parliamentary and health service ombudsman, said: “The NHS provides high-quality care to millions of people every year, but unfortunately we still see a wide variation in the quality of NHS complaint handling.

“Far too many complaints come to us that could have been resolved by the NHS, leaving people waiting too long for answers and delaying important improvements,” he said. “We are committed to working with the NHS to improve the way complaints are handled.”

As reported by Nursing Times, a survey has indicated that public confidence is lacking in NHS complaints system.

Two-thirds of people who complain about NHS treatment on behalf of an older relative do not believe it will make a difference, the survey revealed.

Almost a third of survey respondents also felt that hospital staff did not have adequate understanding of their relative’s condition or needs, according to the research by online network Gransnet and the health service ombudsman.

However, a recent UK study also found the majority of healthcare professionals viewed complaints from patients as damaging to themselves and their wider relationships with those they provide care for.

Research by King’s College London found that receiving complaints left health service staff with what they described as feelings of “devastation”, “awful shame”, “shock” and “incomprehension”.

The Liberal Democrats said the new figures were “a sign of the tremendous pressure that the NHS is under, particularly primary care”.

The party’s health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “Staff are battling to deliver the best care under difficult circumstances, but the pressures facing the NHS are simply not sustainable.

“It threatens to be a long winter ahead,” he said. “We can expect to see more complaints, failures of care and serious incidents unless the Government addresses the chronic funding shortages facing health and social care.”




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Readers' comments (1)

  • During my varied and long career in nursing I have discovered there are three types complaints. Firstly there are those from professional complainers, those who you cannot please in any way. We all know them so there is no squeamishness in admitting it. The second and probably the largest group are from those who complain because the service they receive does not match what they have been led to believe they will get if we lived in a country where our resources were adequate for numbers treated. This can never be resolved until we can plan adequately for future known numbers of patients and run hospitals and services with no waiting lists, immediate treatment and consultation, and hotel like services. The last and I think smallest group are those who have been let down either in care of treatment. It is this group we should be trying to resolve but cannot while all the others are clogging the complaints services.

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