31/10/2005

Unresolved NHS complaints ‘more than double’

The number of people asking for an independent review of their NHS complaints has more than doubled in the past year, according to the latest figures.

The Healthcare Commission, which handles complaints that local NHS trusts cannot resolve, received over 8,000 requests from people wanting their complaint independently reviewed in the 12 months to August.

This compares with 3,700 requests for independent review in 2003/04, when the NHS dealt with second stage complaints.

The regulator has called on the NHS to improve its dealings with dissatisfied patients by resolving more cases locally and by providing vital information to the Commission.

According to the figures, the Commission is currently sending one in three cases back to the NHS, because the case has not been dealt with – the figure has increased from 27% at the end of May to 32% at the end of September.

Marcia Fry, Head of Operational Development at the Healthcare Commission, said that the number of complaints had increased “dramatically”. She said: “We have been working as hard as we can to get as many NHS complaints resolved as quickly as possible and those efforts are now bearing fruit. However, all trusts must also play their part. Patients want complaints resolved quickly and locally so NHS trusts need to be good at this. It is worrying that so many of the NHS complaints that come to us - over one in three - are having to go back to the NHS to be put right."

According to current figures, the Commission is investigating 4,500 complaints, with around 1,600 being with them for more than six months. The Commission said that in a quarter of these cases, they were still awaiting further information from NHS providers.

Poor communication and information for patients were the most frequent cause of complaints, the Healthcare Commission reported, followed by safe and effective clinical practice and the experience individuals have had as patients.

(KMcA/SP)

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