Medacs Healthcare

AUG 29/2012

Latest complaints data underline need for doctors to be on top of their game

There appears to have been a significant increase in written complaints made against the NHS over the past 12 months, new figures show.

On the surface, the data highlight the need for those in nursing and doctor jobs to up their game, particularly regarding aspects of clinical treatment, which accounted for the biggest proportion of complains by subject area.

However, it's not all doom and gloom, with a number of factors affecting the seemingly high rate of complaints.

The figures, which were published today (August 29th) by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reveal that more than 162,100 written complaints were made against the NHS in 2011-12.

That equates to approximately 3,100 complaints in any given week and suggests there were 12,400 more complaints last year than in 2010-11 - an eight per cent rise.

Almost half of complaints are directed at the medical profession, including hospital doctors and surgeons, with 22 per cent of complaints made about nurses, midwives and health visitors.

However, the figures are slightly tricky to interpret, as 23 NHS Foundation Trusts only submitted data for 2011-12 and not for the previous year.

In fact, when only those NHS trusts that submitted data in both years are considered, there was actually a two per cent decrease in written complaints.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the HSCIC, believes the inclusion of Foundation Trusts' data on written complaints will help to give a "fuller picture".

However, David Stout, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, insisted that the apparent increase in the number of complaints "doesn't necessarily mean that patients are less satisfied with their care".

"Although it sounds peculiar, a rise in complaints data can actually mean that patients feel more engaged with their local NHS and want to work with it to improve," he claimed.

Mr Stout also pointed out that only a "very small proportion" of the hundreds of millions of treatments that are administered by NHS staff each year give cause for complaint.

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