Official figures have revealed that the NHS receives more complaints about the attitude of its staff than any other subject.
Last year it received in excess of 13000 written complaints about the attitude of their staff. This is an 8% increase on the year before.
These figures have raised questions about the government’s respect and dignity agenda which is meant to be the focal point of patient care.
The only area that received more complaints was clinical treatment, where there were 52000 during 2013/14.
The total number of written complaints to the NHS England has increased by 4% and has reached 174000, which is equal to 480 each day.
There have been 60500 complaints regarding dental treatment and GP surgeries. This is a small increase on the previous year, but the figures were received from a different number of organisations. However, according to Healthwatch England, there may be about 500000 reports of patient dissatisfaction and poor care that have not been reported during the last two years. It said that in excess of 60% of patients or those who witness poor care being given did not raise complaints.
The figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) indicated an increase in complaints about outpatient services, A&E, mental health services and walk-in centres.
The largest increase in complaints was related to ambulance, elderly and community services. The area where the most complaints were received was hospital inpatient services with around 34500 complaints, although there was a slight decrease compared to the previous year.
An increase in complaints about private sector treatment commissioned by the NHS was received. This indicated an increase from 65 during 2012/13 to 462 during 2013/14. This comes on the heels of the scandal involving dozens of patients where cataract surgery left them with damaged eyes. The surgical procedures done at the Vanguard Healthcare hospital in Somerset was paid for by the NHS.
The head of medical negligence at the law firm Michaelmores, Laurence Vick, said the 610% increase in complaints regarding outsourced treatment, although higher than expected, is not surprising due to the recent failures of this form of contract in the past few years.
He said there appeared to be levels of failures. The private companies and their members of staff are not being vetted and contracts are not supervised by the local NHS consultants who are supposed to be the experts. There is also the problem, as with the Vanguard contract, that trust management do not act quickly enough when they are alerted to potential problems.
According to the shadow public health minister, Luciana Berger, this increase in figures is a sign of an NHS which is under pressure and moving in the wrong direction.
NHS England’s director for improving patient experience, Neil Churchill, said that although the numbers of complaints remain low compared to the overall numbers of patients seen by the NHS, each complaint provides important feedback. He added that they are striving to do more and are working hand-in-hand with their partners to ensure that all complaints are heeded and the quality of care improved.
Image Credit: Gwydion M. Williams