Complaints - Overview
Published: 29 September 2015
Complaints about the NHS are valued alongside all other forms of feedback. They are a helpful 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 and in maintaining the quality and safety of NHS services.
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 2014/15, the total number of NHS Scotland complaints received was 22,417. This equates to approximately 430 complaints a week and 61 complaints a day. Of the 22,417 NHS Scotland complaints, 13,723 complaints related to Hospital & Community Services (HCHS), 7,422 complaints were received about Family Health Services (FHS) and 1,272 about Special NHS Boards and National & Support Organisations.
NHS Boards and other NHS organisations submit summary information about complaints they receive to ISD Scotland. The data covers complaints received by HCHS, FHS and Special NHS Boards and National & Support Organisations. The data submitted includes all formal written complaints. In some NHS Boards/organisations, telephone and other formal oral complaints are also recorded in their submission to ISD. These data are confirmed with NHS Boards/NHS organisations after submission.
For HCHS, summary information is submitted electronically onto the ISD Complaints National Database (Universe) where it is validated and analysed. Information such as the date the complaint was received, service area, issues raised, staff group and outcome of the complaint is summarised by using standard coding convention. For FHS and Special NHS Boards and National & Support Organisations, the complaints summary information is submitted manually to ISD Scotland via an annual return completed by the NHS organisation. The annual return records aggregated complaints data similar to those collected for HCHS.
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 a subsequent revision in April 2005. The purpose of the NHS complaints procedure is to provide a simple, flexible, impartial and easily accessible system for the public as well as being fair to NHS practitioners and staff. Each NHS 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.