NHS complaints rise paints a picture of missed patient expectation.

Thu 28th August 2014

New figures released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that written complaints about the NHS rose during 2013-2014. 

Paul Clark, CEO of Charter UK, said the increase demonstrates that hospitals are failing to live up to patient expectations. "Whilst an overall increase in written complaints of 4.6% seems like a relatively minor change, the figure disguises some of the individual areas in which complaints have skyrocketed," he pointed out. 

"Ambulance services, NHS Direct and community hospital services were each the source of significant complaint spikes, with the latter increasing by 52% to more than 2,000 complaints in the past year." 

Mr Clark said figures like these are not only shocking, but also remind us that the NHS still has a lot of work to do in order to collect, understand and act on the feedback it receives every day. "The continuing upward trend of complaints suggests that, despite multiple taxpayer funded reviews of the NHS' complaints processes – such as the Keogh and Francis reviews – there has been very little specific governance or budgeting that will put trusts in a position where they are equipped to learn from past mistakes and enact appropriate fixes," he said. 

"One of the advantages of an organisation on the scale of the NHS is that it is possible to pick out trends in the data, highlighting where work is most needed. By delving into the root cause of complaints in this way, they become a useful resource through which healthcare in the UK can proactively self improve. 

"In order to take this approach however, they must be approached with the right attitude and viewed as a path to improvement, rather than simply evidence of poor performance. Ultimately, aggregating and analysing the full spectrum of missed expectations – and responding to the findings – is the only way that the NHS will achieve the improvements that are needed."