NHS received almost 4000 written complaints every week last year

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 27 August 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4639
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. 1London

Complaints to the NHS in England seem to be rising and reached almost 4000 every week of last year (2014-15), new data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre have shown.1

The annual report is a count of written complaints made by or on behalf of patients and received from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015. The centre’s statistics showed that 205 289 written complaints were made to the NHS in 2014-15 overall, the equivalent of more than 3900 complaints a week or 562 a day.

A total of 84 511 complaints were made in the year about family health services, including GP practices and dental services. It is not possible to make clear comparisons with previous years, because the return rate of data changed significantly from a 77% return rate from GPs in 2013-14 to 94% in 2014-15.

The overall numbers of medical complaints in the family health services group rose from 24 405 in 2013-14 to 35 276 in 2014-15, but this rise will have been due largely to the higher response rate.

Over a third (37.4%; 32 716) of these medical complaints concerned clinical matters, which was the most common cause, followed by communication or attitude (20 052 complaints) and practice administration (18 007).

Data on hospital and community health services showed 120 778 written complaints last year, a rise of 5.7% (6470) on the previous year’s 114 308. Most of the written complaints in this section of the data by profession were about the medical profession, accounting for 45.4% (54 885) of all complaints.

The next largest grouping was nursing, midwifery, and health visiting, which accounted for 21.1% (25 433) of complaints by profession.

A 23.2% rise was seen in the number of complaints about trust administrative staff, up from 8323 in 2013-14 to 10 253 in 2014-15. Patients complained most often about outpatient appointment delays and cancellations, which increased by 1722 (19.1%) from 9038 in 2013-14 to 10 760 in 2014-15.

Almost half (44.1%; 53 438) of written complaints about hospital and community health services reported by subject area involved all aspects of clinical treatment.

Mick Martin, deputy parliamentary and health service ombudsman, said, “We investigate more than 3000 complaints a year about the NHS in England that haven’t been resolved locally. In almost two thirds of those, people have felt let down by the complaints process.

“It is essential that NHS organisations listen to people when they say they are unhappy with their service and deal effectively and fairly with their complaints to ensure trust in the healthcare system remains high.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4639


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