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The NHS receives 480 written complaints per day

ยท Almost 175,000 reported complaints made in 2013-14

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures

*This report contains regional figures

The number of reported written complaints3 made to the NHS reached 174,9004 in 2013-14 - the equivalent of 480 per day5, new figures show.

Data on written complaints in the NHS, published today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), covers complaints made about NHS hospitals and community health services and family health services (GP and dental practices) in 2013-14.

The new figures show that complaints made against NHS hospitals and community health services in England totalled 114,300 in 2013-14- a 4.6 per cent rise on 2012-13 (109,300) and the equivalent of an extra 96 complaints each week. The number of reported written complaints about family health services was 60,6004.

NHS hospitals and community health services

The highest increase in complaints across professions was for 'ambulance crews (including paramedics)', which was 28.5 per cent higher in 2013-14 (5,700) than in 2012-13 (4,440). Complaints about transport, including ambulances, increased by 43.4 per cent, from 2,740 in 2012-13 to 3,940 in 2013-14.

The report also shows that in 2013-14, of the 114,300 complaints made about NHS hospitals and community health services:

  • The service area with the highest number of complaints was 'inpatient hospital acute services', with 34,400 (30.1 per cent) - a decrease of 1.3 per cent from 2012-13 (34,900). This was followed by 'outpatient hospital acute services' at 31,100 (27.2 per cent), 'mental health services' at 12,200 (10.7 per cent) and 'A&E hospital acute services' at 9,920 (8.7 per cent).
  • The medical profession - which includes hospital doctors and surgeons - was the profession with the highest number of complaints at 52,100 (45.6 per cent). This was followed by 'nursing, midwifery and health visiting' at 24,800 (21.7 per cent).
  • The subject area7 with the highest number of complaints was 'all aspects of clinical care' at 52,300 (45.6 per cent) followed by 'attitude of staff' at 13,300 (11.6 per cent) and 'communication/information to patients' at 11,500 (10.0 per cent).

Family health services

In 2013-14, of the 60,600 complaints made about family health services:

  • The service area with the highest number of complaints was 'medical'8, with 24,400 (40.3 per cent). This was followed by 'general practice administration' at 22,600 (37.4 per cent) and 'dental' at 6,970 (11.5 per cent).
  • The subject area with the highest number of complaints was 'clinical'8, with 22,200 (36.3 per cent) followed by 'communications/attitude' with 13,300 (21.7 per cent) and 'administration' with 12,500 (20.4 per cent).

Kingsley Manning, Chair of the HSCIC, said: "Our latest figures show that the NHS is receiving a large number of written complaints each day. Today's report also shows a rise over the last year in the number of written complaints made against NHS hospitals and community services.

"I'm sure staff who manage NHS complaints will want to pay close attention to these statistics."

You can view the full report 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). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 220 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 under 10,000 have been rounded to the nearest 10. Figures 10,000 and over have been rounded to the nearest 100. Percentages have been rounded to one decimal place.

3. 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.

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 NHS organisation, 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.

4. Please note that year on year comparisons are not possible for both Family Health Services (FHS) and overall written complaints totals.

174,900 is the number of reported NHS written complaints for 2013-14. It consists of NHS Hospital and Community Health Service (HCHS) complaints, which totalled 114,300 and FHS (GP including Dental) complaints, which totalled 60,600.

HCHS is a complete return from all organisations and as such, HCHS data is comparable with previous years (unless otherwise stated). FHS is an incomplete return (77% GP and 43% Dental practices for 2013-14).

Prior to 2013-14, the FHS return was collected at an aggregated PCT level and every year a number of PCTs highlighted that at least one practice had not provided a return (for 2012-13 this number was 65 out 150). Given the varying response rates it is not possible to make direct comparisons with previous years for both the FHS and overall written complaints totals (where HCHS and FHS figures are added).

5. The number of written complaints per day is an average based on 365 days in a year. The actual figure for 2013-14 is 479.1 per day.

6. Please 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.

Following recommendations made in Sir Robert Francis' report, and the Hart/Clwyd report 'Hard Truths', the HSCIC is consulting on proposed changes to the data on written complaints collection and publication. The HSCIC is inviting responses on changes to the data collected, the frequency of collection, and the way the information is used to produce these statistics.

Further information on the consultation, which runs until 5 September 2014, can be found here:

7. 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.

8. The service area 'medical' refers to complaints made against medical services offered at a general practice, such as GP appointments and nurse treatments. The subject area 'clinical' refers to complaints regarding clinical decisions, advice and treatment provided by a care professional within the practice.

9. For media enquiries please contact or 0300 303 3888.

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