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Complaint Handling Within the NHS: Eye Opening Stats

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Ombudsman.org.uk recently released some interesting statistics on complaints made about the NHS in 2011-12. There was a 1.3% rise on NHS complaints in this period when compared with the year before. The total received was 150,859 of which 16,337 were escalated to the ombudsman due to the complainant not being satisfied with the response they got from the NHS. This was an 8% increase on the amount of cases the ombudsman had to deal with when compared to the year before.

A Breakdown of the Ombudsman's Findings and the Action Taken

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As you can see from the chart above the ombudsman further investigated 4,399 of the 16,337 complaints made to them about the NHS. 10,565 of the complainants were still in the process of making their complaint to the NHS and were advised by the ombudsman to either write an official letter (if they hadn't already) or wait for the response from the NHS. 1070 of these complaints were withdrawn and 299 were given advice on the appropriate organisation to complain to.

What was the nature of the complaints made to the ombudsman?

• There was a 50% increase in the number of people complaining about the NHS not admitting 'mistakes in care' in this period when compared to the previous.
• There was a 13% increase in the number of people who felt that the NHS provided a 'poor explanation' to their complaint in this period when compared to the previous.
• There was a 42% increase of people who felt 'inadequate remedies' were being offered to their complaints in this period when compared to the previous.
• There was 16% more complaints from people about unfair removal from GP lists in this period when compared to the previous.
What happened with those complaints that were investigated further?

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In 2,400 of those complaints that the ombudsman looked into it was found that the there was no case to be heard against the NHS. In 950 cases the ombudsman admitted that things had gone wrong but the NHS had dealt with it appropriately and no further action was needed. However in 649 cases the ombudsman found that things had gone wrong and they worked to fix the problem without an official investigation being undertaken. They then agreed to investigate the remaining 400 complaints. This number was up on the previous year when they agreed to investigate 351 complaints further.

What action did the Ombudsman take where things had 'gone wrong'?

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In 48% of complaints where the ombudsman found that a mistake had been made or the complaint had been handled inappropriately an apology was issued. Wider remedies were sought for 31% of complaints whilst compensation payments were made in 28% of the cases.

After carrying out these investigations the ombudsman had to approach the regulatory bodies of 11 heath care professionals. There were three each from the Nursing & Midwifery Council, the General Dental Council and the General Medical Council. Two were from the Health & Care Professionals Council.

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This led to 1 doctor being given a warning and a dentist being suspended from practise. As well as against single professionals, the ombudsman found what they describe as 'systematic issues' in 199 organisations such as poor prescription writing and process handling.

One of the biggest increases that the ombudsman noticed was in the number of people complaining about how the NHS had dealt with their complaint. It suggests that a review of their complaints procedure and handling process is most definitely needed!

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