Poor communication and treatment top reasons for NHS complaints

22 Sep 15

Poor communication, substandard treatment and diagnostic errors remain the top three reasons for hospital complaints investigated by the health services ombudsman in 2014/15.

A report published today showed that non-medical aspects of care were a factor in almost half of the cases that came before the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, while poor communication were a factor in a third of cases.

“I strongly believe that NHS leaders should welcome feedback from patients and recognise the opportunities that good complaint handling offers to improve the services they provide,” said ombudsman Julie Mellor.

“We are publishing this data to help hospital trusts identify problems and take action to ensure trust in the healthcare system remains high.”

The ombudsman received a total of 21,371 enquiries about the NHS last year, up from 18,870 the previous year. Of these, 8,853 were about acute trusts, up from 8,178.

A total of 1,652 investigations into acute trusts were completed in 2014/15, up from 852 in 2013/14.

A change to the way the ombudsman handles complaints to undertake more investigations explains this large rise. Over 4,000 investigations were completed in 2014/15, up from just 384 in 2012/13.

The ombudsman investigates and makes a final decision on complaints when they have not been resolved locally by the NHS in England. Last year, just over a third (36%) of the cases it investigated were upheld. Over two-fifths (44%) of complaints about acute trusts were upheld.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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