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Patient safety tops NHS complaint reviews

Dirty wards and bad meals also among concerns


A surgeon looks down upon a patient

Patient safety comes top of the list of concerns for people having their NHS complaint reviewed.

Around 100,000 complaints are made against the NHS every year, with roughly 8,000 sent for review by the health watchdog if a patient is dissatisfied with the outcome.

A Healthcare Commission report found that 22 per cent of those complaints were about safety – for example falls or children being given the wrong jabs.

Others were about poor care of dying relatives, bereaved families being treated in an abrasive way, and patients being discharged at ‘inappropriate times of the day or night’.

Dirty wards

Poor quality meals, inadequate nursing care and dirty wards were also on the list of complaints.

The Commission said many concerns focused on the ‘basic elements of health care’.

One in 10 of the complaints to do with children were over problems with immunisations.

Meanwhile, most complaints about the death of a patient involved relatives being given contradictory or confusing information by staff.

Incomplete case notes also meant the Commission had problems investigating some complaints.

Nursing care

The report added: ‘To family members, this lack of information suggests that their relative was not monitored, fed or cared for appropriately.’

Marcia Fry, the Commission’s Head of Operational Development, said relatives in one case had been handed a dead person’s belongings in a black bin bag.

In another, a bereaved person had been shown the wrong body in a mortuary.

Around 7 per cent of all complaints to the Commission were about the standard of nursing care, while around 5 per cent were about cleanliness and hospital infections, such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

Of some 16,000 cases handled by the commission between July 2004 and July last year, around 70 per cent of those it could review found in favour of the complainant.

The NHS provides around 380 million treatments a year, so the proportion of complaints is actually very small, the Commission said.

But it announced it would inspect 50 trusts as part of a national audit, including the worst ten and the best ten.

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