NHS Complaints System 'Needs Reforming'

Healthwatch England Reveals The Failings Of The NHS Complaints System


Andrew Robinson, Press Officer | 0113 218 6463
Improvements are needed to the NHS complaints system to make sure patients' concerns are being listened to and dealt with in the most appropriate manner, according to a new report.

Healthwatch England has published the results of an investigation it has carried out into people's experiences of what it calls the "utterly bewildering and largely ineffective" system that is currently in place.

Three in five survey respondents said they believed the NHS was failing to address their concerns, either by ignoring them, not taking their complaint seriously or passing them to numerous other parties to be dealt with, leading patients to give up through frustration.

Only one in five reported that their complaint was taken seriously straight away and more than 80 per cent said they would have greater faith in the system if they knew raising their concerns would actually make a difference.

In addition, fewer than one in ten patients said they had received formal support from the health service regarding their complaint, indicating that the system is failing the majority of those who have concerns.

Previous research from Healthwatch England published in August 2014 showed nearly two-thirds of people who reported receiving poor care did not make a complaint, leading the regulator to estimate that around 250,000 incidents went unreported between 2013 and 2014 alone, meaning officials do not necessarily know exactly how the NHS is performing.

Chair of Healthwatch England Anna Bradley commented: "Complaining about poor care is an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially for those who are suffering either physically or emotionally as a result of the way they have been treated by a hospital or care home."

In light of this, she says "a new, streamlined and genuinely responsive system" is needed to ensure people are getting the service they deserve.

Healthwatch England believes the system should deal with the human impact of medical negligence first and foremost, in a compassionate and supportive manner.

Expert Opinion
An open and transparent NHS which encourages staff and patients to come forward and raise concerns about patient care and standards of treatment is a positive step, however it is alarming that the findings of this report indicate many complaints are not being dealt with quickly.

“Patient care should always be the top priority and it is vital complaints are listened to, taken seriously and action is taken to resolve any failings, which will lead to improved care for all patients and a better health service. In our work we have seen a number of cases where problems have not been dealt with appropriately, which can lead to patients suffering poor quality care and treatment. These failings can have devastating consequences for patients and it is vital the NHS takes steps to encourage reporting from staff and implements measures to ensure the issues raised are corrected immediately.”
Julianne Moore, Partner