Research commissioned by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) indicates that around only one-third of people who experience poor service from public bodies, including the NHS, in England actually make a complaint.
Common reasons for not to complaining include the impression that it would be difficult, time-consuming and / or pointless.
The complaints process needs to be made simpler and more easily accessible in public services such as the NHS, the PHSO survey of over 4,200 people implies. Barriers to submitting complaints about poor care or services result in opportunities to learn from mistakes early being missed.
The Department of Health is working to ensure people know how to complain through clearer information. Hospitals are legally obliged to apologise to patients when mistakes occur. The CQC hospital inspections regime now includes more stringent assessment of complaints handling processes.
Public service complaints ‘too hard’, watchdog says. London: BBC Health News, June 13th 2015.
A recent analysis of the reasons behind complaints escalated to the PHSO by NHS patients in England shows that “Not getting a good enough apology when things go wrong” is the most common underlying factor; with 34% of cases investigated by the PHSO in 2014-15 falling into this category.
The top three reasons for hospital complaints investigated by the PHSO during 2014-15 were poor communication, errors in diagnosis and poor treatment. Non-medical aspects of patient care were a factor in roughly half of complaints investigated.
‘No apology’ tops patient complaints. London: BBC Health News, September 22nd 2015.
This relates to:
Complaints about acute trusts 2014-15. London: Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, September 16th 2015.
NHS England Complaints Policy
Possibly also of interest:
Thompson, K. (2015). NHS England Complaints Policy. Redditch: NHS England, March 26th 2015.
More Radical? The Patients Association’s View of the PHSO’s Inadequacy
The PHSO itself has not been free from criticism. The report below follows-up the Patients Association’s November 2014 report on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s handling of NHS complaints. Improvements asserted to be still needed in the complaints handling service (as of March 2015, at least) are indicated.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman: labyrinth of bureaucracy. Follow-up report to the November 2014 Patients Association report on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, “The ‘Peoples’ Ombudsman – How it Failed us”. London: Patients Association, March 2015.