Complaints - Overview
Published: 25 September 2012
Complaints Statistics 2011/12
The NHS Complaints system can be a powerful driver for change, both for individual complainants and for the wider NHS. It is the key feedback mechanism for patients and epitomises the culture of person-centredness, reflective learning and quality improvement which is a cornerstone of the Healthcare Quality Strategy for NHS Scotland.
Complaints about the NHS are a valuable way of identifying issues and areas in need of change within the service. Acknowledging these issues and taking steps to rectify associated problems is vital in creating an open and honest NHS. In order to make the complaints management process truly effective, front-line staff, managers and executive officers need to have defined responsibilities in relation to promoting feedback from patients and to take ownership of complaints when they arise. It is crucial that complaints intelligence drives the search for improvement in the organisation and does not act as a mechanism for apportioning blame.
There is a wide variation in the type of contact that patients have with the NHS (e.g. treatment as an Inpatient, Outpatient, attendance at A&E, blood donation and transportation by ambulance) and patients (or their representatives) can make a complaint if they feel dissatisfied with any aspect of these interactions. In 2011/12, there were 8,117 complaints received about Hospital and Community Services and 3,538 complaints received about Family Health Services.
NHS Boards and other NHS organisations submit summary information about complaints they receive to ISD Scotland. The data covers all formal written complaints received by Hospital and Community Services, Family Health Services and Special Health Boards. These data are validated by ISD and checked with the boards after submission. The statistics relating to GP and dental services are collated via an aggregated annual return of the total number of complaints made against Family Health Services in the previous financial year. To promote consistency of recording practices, ISD rolled out revised definitions and codes nationally in 2008. Further details about these statistics can be found on the statistics page.
The NHS complaints procedure was introduced in April 1996 with the purpose of providing a simple, flexible, impartial and easily accessible system for the public as well as being fair to NHS practitioners and staff. Each Health Board within NHS Scotland employs staff whose role it is to receive complaints from members of the public and to register the decisions made and actions undertaken. Revisions to the complaints process in 2005 were intended to remove some of the barriers which may have stopped some people complaining about the NHS in previous years. The Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 introduced a right to give feedback, make comments, raise concerns or make complaints about the health care received from the NHS in Scotland. Secondary legislation to support the implementation of the Act came into force on 1 April 2012 and revised Good Practice Guidance was issued to the NHS in March 2012. Further details about the complaints process can be found on the current complaints procedure page.