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NHS written complaints data released

August 29, 2013: The number of written complaints about NHS organisations in England was 162,000 during 2012-133, the equivalent of more than 3,000 written complaints a week over the year.

*HSCIC must be credited as the source of the figures in this release

Written complaints made against NHS hospitals and community health services in England totalled 109,300.The number of written complaints recorded about family health services was 52,700.

The figures are contained in Data on written complaints in the NHS, published today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). The report splits complaints into two groups: family health services (GP and dental practices) and NHS hospitals and community health services.

All NHS organisations in England are required to operate the NHS Complaints Procedure and since April 2011 it has been mandatory for all organisations to supply this information to the HSCIC.

NHS hospitals and community health services in 2012-13

  • The service area receiving the greatest number of written complaints was 'inpatient hospital acute services' accounting for 31.9 per cent (34,900), followed by 'outpatient acute services' (27.5 per cent or 30,000), 'mental health services' (10.7 per cent or 11,700) and 'A&E' (8.9 per cent or 9,680)4.
  • The profession attracting the biggest number of written complaints was the 'medicalprofession' (which includes hospital doctors and surgeons), making up 47.1 per cent (51,500) followed by 'nursing, midwifery and health visiting' at 22.1 per cent (24,100).
  • The subject area receiving the largest number of written complaints was 'all aspects of clinical treatment', making up 46.2 per cent (51,100) followed by 'attitude of staff' (11.1 per cent or 12,300), 'communication/information to patients' (10.5 per cent or 11,600) and 'appointments, delay/cancellation (outpatient)' (8.0 per cent or 8,890)

Family health services in 2012-13

  • The service area receiving the greatest number of written complaints was 'medical', which comprised 52.6 per cent (27,700), followed by 'GP administration' (relating to activities undertaken by reception and admin staff within a practice) at 26.4 per cent (13,900) and 'dental' at 12.8 per cent (6,730).
  • The subject area receiving the largest number of written complaints was 'clinical', which made up 35.3 per cent (17,200) followed by 'communications/attitude' (20.8 per cent (10,100) and 'administration' (19.5 per cent or 9,460)

The report is at:


Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). The trusted source of authoritative data and information relating to health and care, HSCIC plays a fundamental role in driving better care, better services and better outcomes for patients. It supports the delivery of IT infrastructure, information systems and standards to ensure information flows efficiently and securely across the health and social care system to improve patient outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 130 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.
  2. Figures over 1,000 have been rounded to the nearest 10 and over 10,000 to the nearest 100.
  3. There was an increase this year in the number of primary care trusts indicating that at least one of the GP or dental practices in their area had not supplied them with data on written complaints. In 2012-13, 65 out of 150 primary care trusts indicated this compared to 36 in 2011-12. Due to this, we are unable to provide reliable year-on-year comparisons for written complaints against family health services or figures where this data has an impact.
  4. Note that just because a particular provider, service or service area or profession has a relatively high number of complaints, this does not necessarily reflect on the quality of service provided. Numbers of complaints can also be driven by the extent to which a particular provider or department encourages or enables patient feedback and complaints. The HSCIC is not yet able to provide statistics broken down according to the number of complaints per 100,000 patients treated and is working with the Department of Health to investigate how this could be done to enable greater comparison.
  5. All complaints referred to in the report and this press release are written complaints. A written complaint is one that is made in writing, including by email, to any staff member of a Trust or PCT, or is originally made orally and subsequently recorded in writing. Once it is so recorded, it should be treated as though it was made in writing from the outset. Complaints and comments or suggestions that do not require investigation are not included. Complaints are collected between 1 April and 31 March each financial year.
  6. A complaint can be made concerning more than one subject area. Where this has occurred, some organisations have recorded a complaint under each subject area contained within the complaint letter received. Therefore the total number of complaints by subject does not match the actual total number of complaints.
  7. For media enquiries or interview requests please contact the press office on 0845 257 6990 or
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