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Trends in complaints about NHS trusts

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Today we published our first quarterly health complaints statistics report, Complaints about the NHS in England: Quarter 1 2018-19. It presents data about the NHS complaints we have received, assessed and investigated from April to the end of June 2018, as well as the recommendations we made.

It is vital that our work is evidence based and we are using high-quality data to drive service improvements. This report forms part of our strategy for 2018-21 and our commitment to increasing the transparency and impact of our case work. We will be publishing more insight and analysis to help improve public services and frontline complaint handling.

The report gives NHS organisations a greater understanding of the complaints landscape and the types of issues that are referred to us. It is a starting point. Over time we aim to develop the report so that NHS organisations can see their tailored complaints data and use it as a tool to help improve services. 

We will also develop a trend analysis to allow commissioners, regulators and policy makers understand more about the pressures within the NHS and the human impact of mistakes.

We have begun working towards an improved system of recording how caseworkers resolve complaints without the need for an investigation. However, this work is in its infancy and is not reflected in the report data.

What the data tells us

During quarter one in 2018-19: 

  • we completed our initial checks on 5,576 health complaints (step one)
  • we progressed 1,591 (28%) of these to assessment (step two)
  • of these, we investigated 371 (23%) cases (step three)
  • we fully upheld 29 (7%) and partly upheld 132 (33%) of these cases
  • we did not uphold 179 (45%) of those investigated cases.

Our recommendations

For complaints we upheld or partly upheld, we made the following recommendations to organisations:

  • 125 formal apologies
  • 75 payments
  • 103 service improvements
  • 31 other actions to put things right.

Next year, we will start publishing more detail about our casework findings, the recommendations we make and whether organisations have complied with them. We aim to publish the majority of our casework decisions online by 2021.

What did people complain about?

Hospitals and community health services were the most complained about health organisations. 

This is not surprising considering the majority of patients will be using these NHS services for more serious and possibly long-term injuries or illnesses. 

The most complained about issue within these services was access to treatment or drugs, which includes failure to diagnose and delay in diagnosis. 

I encourage you to read the report and share with colleagues who may be interested in the results. Please email any comments and feedback on how we can improve it to researchteam@ombudsman.org.uk.