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NHS failing to adequately handle complaints

Almost 50 per cent of complaints by patients about the NHS are not handled satisfactorily, according to a report published by the Healthcare Commission

Almost 50 per cent of complaints by patients about the NHS are not handled satisfactorily, according to a report published by the Healthcare Commission.

The NHS provides around 380 million treatments each year and receives around 135,000 complaints. The Healthcare Commission is responsible for reviewing cases where patients have complained to their local NHS Trust and are unhappy with the response.

In the year to July 31, 2008, 2,655 cases were upheld by the Commission and a further 1,545 were referred back to the relevant Trust for further work, meaning almost half (47 per cent) of all complaints received required further work by the trust.

Only 1,641 (18 per cent) of cases were found to have been handled appropriately by the Trust and the majority of the remaining cases were either withdrawn by the complainant or referred on to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The report suggests that some NHS Trusts may not be making the complaints procedure clear to patients, with 2,458 (27 per cent) complaints falling outside of the Commission's jurisdiction as they had not been raised locally first.

Anna Walker, the Commission's chief executive, said: "Considering that millions of treatments are delivered by the NHS each year it is perhaps encouraging that we only receive around 8,000 complaints a year. However, it is concerning that around half of complainants received an inadequate response from the Trust when they first complained."

Of the complaints received, 43 per cent related to hospitals with the majority of complaints concerning nursing care, 11 per cent related to GP practices with a quarter of these complaints concerning a delay or failure to diagnose a condition or illness, mental health services received 5 per cent of complaints and dental, accident and emergency and maternity services accounted for 4 per cent, 3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.

From April 1, 2009, a new two-tier complaints system will replace the current three-tier system, meaning if a complainant is unhappy with a response from their Trust, they can refer the complaint directly to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, therefore bypassing the current mid-stage review by the Healthcare Commission.

16th February 2009

From: Healthcare

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