By Neha Pathak
The rise in patient complaints last year is the highest in 12 years, official figures confirm, but the increase in those complaining about GPs has slowed.
The figures from the NHS Information Centre show written complaints about the NHS increased by 13% from 2008/09 to 2009/10, the biggest annual increase for 12 years.
There was a 4% increase in complaints about general practice over that time period, but this compared with an 11% increase the year before and a 13% increase in complaints about hospital and community services from 2008/09 to 2009/10.
Medical defence experts warned the figures showed a substantial number of GPs received at least one complaint last year, and said practices should have a process in place to ensure they were able to deal with complaints effectively.
Dr Michael Devlin, head of advisory services at the Medical Defence Union said: ‘Knowing how to respond when a complaint is made and when to seek advice allows GPs to help prevent complaints escalating and their practices becoming an unwelcome statistic at the Ombudsman’s office.’
NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said the numbers could partly be explained by an increase in NHS activity.
He said: ‘This report shows the biggest annual rise in written complaints about NHS hospitals and community services for 12 years. However it is important to bear in mind that there has been a substantial increase in NHS activity in England over time.
‘For example, hospital admissions increased by 28% between 1998-99 and 2008-09, while GP consultations increased by an estimated 44% per cent between 1998 and 2008.’