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Complaints from patients about NHS services

The Healthcare Commission is soon to publish a report on the recurring themes in some 16,000 complaints about the NHS sent to the Commission for independent review between July 2004 and July 2006.

The Commission urges NHS trusts to do more to learn from patients- complaints and to handle the issues raised “quickly, efficiently and locally”.

The report highlights the areas of concern most frequently raised by patients about NHS trusts, GPs and dentists. The ten common themes that came up regularly were: safety (22%); care surrounding a death (54% of complaints about hospitals); nursing (around 7%); discharge from hospital and service coordination (around 5%; cleanliness and healthcare associated infection (around 5%); removal of patients from GP lists (15% of complaints about GPs); record keeping (3%); clinical care and treatment, including delays in referral or diagnosis (66% of complaints about GPs); disagreements on fees and charges (30% of complaints about dentists); and out-of-hours GP services (about 2.5%).

Complainants wanted a better explaination of what went wrong (33%), service improvements (23%), an apology (10%), the event acknowledged (9%), action against staff (8%) and for the same thing not to happen again (8%). The Commission referred 33% of complaints back to trusts that had not done enough to resolve the issue locally (in some trusts the figure was over 60%).