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Worcestershire NHS claims increase is down to transparency
THE number of complaints being made about NHS organisations has rocketed in the last year, new figures have revealed.
Official data just released shows more people in Worcestershire are voicing unhappiness about the treatment they receive from hospitals, GPs and the ambulance service.
But patients are being urged not to be too alarmed by the figures - with health leaders in Worcestershire and nationally pinning it on an increasingly “open and transparent” NHS that is more willing to listen to its patients concerns.
They also say the complaints that are received represent a very small minority of the patients treated by the NHS.
The biggest rise has come in complaints against Worcestershire Health and Care Trust, which has seen numbers more than double in the last 12 months.
Complaints to West Midlands Ambulance Service have shot up by more than 50 per cent for the second year running and there has been an increase of 18 per cent in the number of complaints about GPs and dentists in the county.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Worcestershire Royal Hospital, received 707 complaints during 2012-13 -more than any other local NHS service provider during 2012-13.
But it has also seen the lowest rise in complaints, an increase of just one compared to the 706 lodged during 2011-12.
Peter Pinfield, chairman of official health watchdog Healthwatch Worcestershire, is not too concerned to see complaints on the rise as long as they lead to improvements being made.
“In a strange way I think it is a good thing that these numbers are increasing,” he said.
“Credit to these organisations who are all involving the public, patients and carers in a way that has never been done before. That is why I think the numbers are increasing. What is important is the lessons being learned from those complaints.
“The people who are making decisions and spending money on our behalf need to be held to account. I would encourage people to keep complaining.”
The report from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) revealed that, nationally, the NHS receives more than 3,000 written complaints a week.
A total of 109,316 complaints were made about hospital and community health services in 2012-13, an increase of 1.9 per cent. Almost half were against hospital medical professionals, including doctors and surgeons.
There were also more than 52,000 complaints in a separate category relating to GP and dental concerns. The report says that figure cannot be compared to previous years as some GP practices failed to submit data.
Matt Tee, chief operating officer of the NHS Confederation, said NHS organisations will be scrutinising the data to see how they can improve.
“Effective feedback and complaints systems are an integral part of an open and transparent NHS,” he said. “But we also need to keep a realistic eye on what today’s statistics mean for the majority of NHS patients.
“The NHS performs hundreds of millions of procedures each year and only a very small number of these ever give cause for complaint.”
He added: “The volume of complaints does not necessarily indicate an organisation’s quality. A high number of complaints can reflect a willingness to listen to negative feedback and to learn how to make things better.”
Health minister Lord Howe said more patient feedback is being collected than ever before.
“Every complaint holds valuable information on how patients feel about their care. Complaints can be the earliest symptom of a problem within an organisation and the NHS should use them to learn from and improve their service.”
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