Of the complaints made in 2013-14, 50.1% were upheld. In a separate report the Health Services Ombudsman stated that they had had 18,870 enquiries about the NHS in 2013-14.
The Health Services Ombudsman’s report also revealed that over the previous 18 months, the top four issues which were most mentioned for complaining about Trusts were: clinical care and treatment, communication, diagnosis (including delay, failure to diagnose and misdiagnosis) and the attitude of staff.
In terms of complaints about acute trusts which the Ombudsman investigated, it reported that over the first two quarters of 2014-15 diagnosis accounted for 36% of complaints.
In responding to their figures, the Ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor, DBE, took a constructive approach and emphasised the importance of a more personalised approach to care which is less defensive and instead welcomes feedback.
Whilst it is undoubtedly the case that feedback and transparency can only help the NHS going forward. What these figures also show is not only that the level of complaints in the NHS is rising but also that there are many thousands of those complaints which are not being upheld.
Above all, these are figures which reflect a huge breadth of experience with the NHS. Sometimes the NHS can be overshadowed by headlines concerning political points over lack of resources or about particular cases or groups of cases which come to light. But these figures reflect a whole cross-section of those who come into contact with the NHS and sadly the scale of the figures raises serious cause for concern.
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