Poor communication fuels rise in NHS complaints

  • Posted

Posted 13/11/2012

The BBC has reported this week that careless, insincere and unclear communication has fuelled a surge in complaints against the NHS in England. This is according to the Health Service Ombudsman, Julie Mellor, whose report says the NHS needs to improve the way it deals with patients who are unhappy with the care they have received. It also highlights an increase in the complaints about independent advisors offering care to NHS patients.

A patient group said the NHS need a cultural change in the way it handled complaints. The Health Service Ombudsman is the last port of call for people unhappy with their NHS care or with how a complaint has been handled locally.

In all the NHS received 16,333 complaints in 2011/2012. Just under 11,000 of those were re-directed to other organisations or back into the NHS complaint system. Another 1,000 were then withdrawn by the complainant. The Ombudsman investigated 4,399.

There was a 50% rise in incidents where the NHS did not acknowledge mistakes in care and that has gone up from 1,014 to 1,523. There was a 42% rise in complaints about inadequate remedies such as poor apologies up from 1,163 to 1,655. There was a 61% rise in complaints about independent providers up from 169 to 272.  

There is a continuing problem of GPs striking patients off their lists unfairly or hastily. The previous year’s Ombudsman’s report issued a warning to family doctors about dismissing patients. This latest report says that despite that, complaints have increased by 16%. In her report, Miss Mellor said that there needs to be a clear shift in attitude and practice amongst some GPs.

She said that all too often the people who come to us for help are unhappy because of the careless communication, insincere apology and unclear explanations they have had from the NHS. A poor response to a complaint can add to the problems of someone who is unwell, or struggling to take care of others or grieving. The NHS need to get better at listening to patients and their families and responding to concerns.  

Kathryn Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patient’s Association, said this important report makes clear that the NHS is still failing to communicate properly with patients and relatives, with a shocking 50% rise in complaints about poor communication.

Mike Farrah, Chief Executive of the NHS Federation which represents Trusts, said of the 16,333 complaints that the Ombudsmen received over two thirds were sent back to local organisations because they had not completed the NHS complaints procedure. This suggests we are not doing enough to resolve things at an early stage and communicate with people about how they can raise their concerns.

Julie Crossley, a Medical Injury Lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments: “This report is not a total surprise. More and more services are being passed to the private sector and there is likely to be a rise in complaints as a result. We have known for years that the NHS are poor at handling complaints and this has got worse rather than better from our, and our clients’, point of view. It clearly needs addressing.” Click here for further information about our Medical Injury services.


    How can we help you?

    Please fill in the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible or to speak to one of our experts call
    0330 404 0749

    I accept that my data will be held for the purpose of my enquiry in accordance with Ashtons
    Privacy Policy

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    How can we help?

    If you have an enquiry or you would like to find out more about our services, why not contact us?