Number of written complaints about NHS increases 4.9%

There were 208,400 written complaints received by the NHS during 2016/17 – up 4.9% on the previous year, NHS Digital figures released Thursday September 14 show

The figures mean on average 571 written complaints were made every day.

The report, entitled Data on Written Complaints in the NHS, 2016/17, shows numbers of complaints about both primary and secondary care.

It shows a 9.7% increase in written complaints to GP and dental practices compared with the previous year. In 2016/17, there were 90,600 primary care complaints, up from 82,600 in 2015/16.

Around half (49.8%) of the resolved complaints made to primary care providers were upheld. 37.5% were fully upheld, 12.4% were partially upheld and 50.2% were not upheld.

Of the total number of primary care complaints involving a service area, 83.2% related to GP surgeries, while 14.6% related to dental practices.

The report shows there was a 1.4% year-on-year increase in secondary care complaints with 117,800 complaints received in 2016/17, up from 116,200 in 2015/16, but a smaller proportion of resolved secondary care complaints were fully upheld than the previous year.

In 2016/17, 35.8% (40,100) of secondary care complaints were fully upheld, compared with 38.5% (39,800) in 2015/16. The number of complaints partially upheld increased from 26.4% (27,300) in 2015/16 to 28.9% (32,300) in 2016/17.

Further analysis of the report shows:

The areas with the highest overall percentage increases in all written complaints were:

  • Lancashire, which had 5,300 complaints compared with 4,600 the previous year – a 14.6% increase;
  • The West Midlands, which had 14,400 complaints compared with 13,000 the previous year – an 11.1% increase;
  • The North Midlands, which had 12,100 complaints compared with 11,100 the previous year – an 8.8% increase; and
  • Yorkshire and Humber, which had 21,400 complaints compared with 19,700 the previous year – an 8.6% increase.
  • The total number of complaints fell in:
  • The South Central region, which had 11,500 complaints compared with 12,200 the previous year – down 6.2%;
  • The South West region, which had 11,700 complaints compared with 11,900 the previous year – down 1.8%; and
  • Cumbria and the North East, which had 9,700 complaints compared with 9,800 the previous year – down 0.6%.
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A single written complaint can cover multiple subjects, service areas, and professions. This means the total number of written complaints involving a subject, service, or profession could be greater than the total number of written complaints.

The report provides a breakdown of secondary care complaints by profession, showing:

  • The medical profession were the subject of 66,500 (41.1%) of the 161,700 written complaints made involving a profession. This is an increase of 7.4% compared with 2015/16 when the number totalled 61,900. The medical profession received the greatest number of written complaints.
  • The nursing profession received the second highest number of written complaints with 36,800 (22.7% of all complaints involving a profession), an increase of 9.8% on last year’s total of 33,500.
  • The highest percentage increase in written complaints by profession was a 25.4% increase involving the scientific, therapeutic and technical profession, which in 2016/17 totalled 5,600 (3.5% of total complaints involving a profession). The total number of complaints involving this profession in 2015/16 was 4,500.
  • The highest percentage decrease in written complaints by profession was a 7.6% decrease for the Support to Clinical Staff profession, which in 2016/17 totalled 7,200 (4.4% of total complaints involving a profession). The total number of complaints involving this profession in 2015/16 was 7,800.

Both secondary and primary care data are available at site and practice level in CSV files, which can be accessed through the link below.

Read the full report

The first quarter of the 2017-18 HCHS quarterly report is also available on the NHS Digital website

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