NHS complaints in Scotland up by nearly a quarter

NHS Scotland complaints: up by nearly 25 per cent. Picture: Greg Macvean

NHS Scotland complaints: up by nearly 25 per cent. Picture: Greg Macvean

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THE number of complaints received by the NHS in Scotland has risen by almost a quarter in a year, official figures show.

The service received 20,364 complaints in 2013/14, up 23 per cent on the previous year.

That equates to about 390 complaints a week or 56 per day.

The Scottish Government said the rise was largely due to an increase in complaints from prisoners after changes were made to their rights.

Overall, fewer complaints were upheld compared to the previous 12 months.

Statisticians also urged caution, saying patient feedback is encouraged and that a rise in complaints is not necessarily an indication of diminished healthcare quality.

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The annual figures, published by ISD Scotland, cover complaints about hospital and community health services, family health services, special NHS boards and national and support organisations. They relate to the period from April 1 2013 to March 31 this year.

In detail, the figures show that the total number of complaints received by hospital and community health services was 11,857, a 29 per cent increase. The rise was approximately double that seen in 2011/12 and 2012/13.

The most common issues raised in this category surrounded treatment (43 per cent), followed by staff (29 per cent), waiting times (14 per cent) and the environment/domestic issues (7 per cent).

But the report’s authors said the majority of the rise can be attributed to an increase in complaints from prisoners after a simplification of the complaints process made it far more accessible to inmates.

Prison complaints rose from 151 last year to 2,967 this year - approximately a 20-fold increase.

However, if they were excluded from the figures, there was in fact a 1% reduction in complaints in 2013/14 compared to the previous year.

Family health services got 7,365 complaints, a 20 per cent increase.

“This increase can be attributed to the inclusion of complaints relating to pharmaceutical and ophthalmic services since 2012/13 and an improved awareness of reporting,” the report said.

Special boards and national and support organisations accounted for 1,142 complaints, a decrease of 5 per cent since the previous year.

In total, fewer complaints were upheld or partially upheld compared to the year before. Overall, 42 per cent of complaints were not upheld this year compared to 36 per cent last year.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The overall increase in complaints was largely due to an increase in prisoner complaints and shows that actions taken by NHS boards in 2013-14 to ensure that prisoners know how they can raise complaints and are supported to do so, in line with the Patient Rights Act, are now having an effect.

“Complaints about hospital and community health services since 2012-13, excluding prisoner complaints, are down 1 per cent.

“We are committed to developing a culture of openness and transparency in NHS Scotland that actively welcomes all forms of feedback as a tool for continuous improvement.

“All complaints are treated seriously and it is vital NHS boards and family health services are completely open and learn the right lessons.

“It is important to understand these figures in their context, our NHS treats millions of people every year, so these complaints relate to a very small proportion - about 0.05 per cent of NHS activity.

“The number of complaints we are seeing reflects a better awareness of how people can give feedback and make a complaint - and confidence that their complaint will be listened to and acted on.”

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