The team at Fletchers Solicitors analysed over 3,600 serious complaints about the NHS to see how they were dealt with.
In 47% of cases nurses or other support staff have to respond to serious complaints themselves whilst trying to also deliver care to patients.
NHS procedures state that it should be the ‘service provider’ who is the first port of call with a serious complaint. However, only 26% of complaints make it through to managers of the service, meaning that this places the burden on frontline staff.
Alternatively, complaints should be directed to NHS England, Scotland or Wales for complaints against a GP or Dentist, or the recently formed Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) if it is a complaint about a hospital. However, just a quarter (25%) of patients were aware that they could have complained to NHS England, Scotland or Wales and just 12% knew of the CCG’s complaints procedures.
It seems NHS bosses are hiding behind frontline staff when it comes to handling complaints. Procedures are needlessly bureaucratic and lack a human face. Most often patients simply want an apology and to know that someone in charge is listening.
The research shows that, as a result, patients who make complaints are highly dissatisfied with the process and often seek other means of redress. Patients were asked to rate their experience of the NHS complaints procedure out of ten. They gave an average score of 4.8, with a third rating the system as 3 out of 10 or lower.
We found that just under one in ten patients with serious complaints go to a solicitor (9.4%) rather than persevering with NHS complaints procedures. 7.2% contact their local MP or councillor and 2.1% ask the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for help.
The research was commissioned as part of our year-long study into how the NHS communicates with its patients, known as the Listening Project. We hope the study will help shape and improve the NHS in the long run and less people will suffer as a result of poor care.