New report shows rise in written complaints on previous year

About 3,100 written complaints a week were made against the NHS in 2011-12 – just over 162,100 for the year.

Although this in an eight per cent (12,400) rise on 2010-11 – this comparison is affected by 23 NHS Foundation Trusts (FTs) submitting data in 2011-12 but not for the previous year.

Comparing the 501 NHS organisation (350 NHS trusts and 151 Primary Care Trusts) who reported data for both years; the rise was just over one per cent (from 148,900 to 150,900).

Today’s Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) report: Data on Written Complaints in the NHS, 2011-12; presents information reported through two collections:

  • The first is from NHS hospital and community health services, which was made mandatory for Foundation Trusts (FTs) in 2011-12.
  • The second is from family health services (GP and dental practices) – by Primary Care Trust (PCT) area; which has been mandatory since 2009-10. 36 out of 151 PCTs were unable to provide complete returns for all practices in 2011-12, compared to 29 PCTs in 2010-11. This may be due to a practice receiving no complaints in the year, or not notifying their PCT of complaints received. 

The report looks at the total written complaints in each collection, which can be broken down either by service area (who was complained about), or subject area (what was complained about). Total complaints cannot be broken down by both subject and service area at the same time.

For NHS hospitals and community health services in 2011-12:

  • Considering NHS trusts who submitted data in both years (2010-11 and 2011-12); there was a decrease in written complaints of just over two per cent (from 98,200 to 96,000). If the 23 FTs with no 2010-11 data are included in comparisons; there was a rise of just over eight per cent (to 107,300)
  • Considering all NHS trusts who submitted data in 2011-12:

–       By service area; 49,300 complaints (just under 46 per cent) were about “the medical profession” (which includes hospital doctors and surgeons), the biggest proportion of complaints by service area. “Nurses, midwives and health visitors” accounted for the second biggest amount at 23,300 (22 per cent). These are similar proportions to the previous year for both groups.

–       By subject area; 49,600 complaints (46 per cent) were about “all aspects of clinical treatment”, the biggest proportion of complaints by subject area. This type of complaint increased by just over 13 per cent on the previous year (where, for all trusts submitting data in 2010-11, 43,900 (44 per cent) were complaints of this type).

For family health services in 2011-12:

  • There were 54,900 written complaints, a rise of just over eight per cent on the previous year (50,700). However, comparison of 2010-11 and 2011-12 figures may be affected to some degree by some PCTs reporting incomplete data in either year.
  • By service area; 29,900 (54 per cent) were about “medical service”, accounting for the biggest proportion of complaints by service area. This type of complaint decreased by just under three per cent on the previous year (when there were 30,800 complaints of this type; accounting for 61 per cent of all complaints).
  • By subject area; 19,300 (just over 36 per cent) were on “clinical service” (decisions, advice and treatment provided by a care professional), the biggest proportion of complaints by subject area . This type of complaint increased by nearly 11 per cent on the previous year (when there were 17,500 complaints of this type; accounting for just over 35 per cent of all complaints)

HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: “This is the first year it has been mandatory for Foundation Trusts to submit data about the number of written complains they receive, helping to give a fuller picture of the volume of complaints made in writing to the health service.

“Having said that, I would encourage greater input from family health services in future primary care submissions to ensure this picture can be brought into even sharper focus.”

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