A recent survey has revealed a significant increase in the number of written complaints concerning issues with the standard of the National Health Service. The survey, conducted by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, recorded a total of 174,872 complaints about the NHS in the past year – an increase of 12,853 from the previous year. This amounts to almost 500 extra complaints each day.
Given that it is likely that a large proportion of people who have had negative encounters with the NHS will not have produced a written complaint, the trouble is potentially many times worse than these figures suggest. Research from ‘Healthwatch England’ demonstrates this point – they recently revealed a worrying half a million potential unreported issues within the past two years.
The worry continues when we look at some of the departments that received a high volume of complaints. For instance, the ambulance services saw a significant increase in written complaints – this is undoubtedly one of the most important arms of the NHS, due to the seriousness and urgency of some of the patients’ conditions. One of the largest areas for complaint, with 34,500 people voicing their discontent, was discovered to be hospital inpatient services – another indisputably vital part of the NHS. This figure is in fact slightly lower than the equivalent for the previous year, as was the figure representing complaints regarding maternity services.
Anna Bradley, Chair of Healthwatch England, has attempted to draw attention to the importance of a system in which members of the public can make themselves heard in their complaints to the NHS. Backing this up is the body’s recent action to ‘help people navigate the current complaints system’ through the production and release of ‘consumer guides’ and other such materials. These improvements to complaints systems imply that the overall rise in written NHS complaints may be partly due to the fact that it is now easier than ever to make a complaint. Nevertheless, conclusive statistics show that the health service in Britain has definite room for improvement in terms of patient satisfaction.