NHS complaints figures are unlikely to be an accurate reflection of missed expectation warns Charter UK.

Thu 29th August 2013

162,000 written complaints were made about NHS organisations in England during 2012-2013, the equivalent of more than 3,000 written complaints a week over the year. 

The figures contained in Data on written complaints in the NHS, published today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), reveal that written complaints were up 1.9 per cent on the previous year and that 45.4 per cent of complaints were upheld in the complainants favour. 

However Paul Clark, CEO of Charter UK believes that inconsistencies in the way that complaints are recorded and responded to across the NHS could mean that the true complaints figures are much higher. 

"The key principle for any organisation wanting to improve its complaints handling and learn from customer complaints is that they must implement a consistent approach to capturing and managing complaints in the first place - and this is no different for the NHS," he said.

"Today's complaints data reveals inconsistencies in approaches to handling and reporting on complaints across the NHS, and these discrepancies will give a distorted view of the issues as well as the size and scale of the problem.

"In my experience, organisations that have implemented a consistent, enterprise–wide approach to capturing complaints have seen a considerable increase in their complaints volumes."

However Mr Clark says the spike isn't as negative as it seems. "Once organisations establish an accurate picture of customer dissatisfaction they are able to use this data as a mechanism for improvement and enjoy significant economic benefits as a result.

"It is therefore my belief that the HSCIC's complaints data, whilst transparent, does not accurately reflect the true scale of missed expectation in the NHS. The volume could be four or five times higher, if not more, than these figures indicate."