A study into the quality of the service delivered by the NHS has revealed that the North West is one of the areas in the UK with the lowest levels of patient complaints.
A survey of 5,000 patients, conducted by leading medical negligence law firm Fletchers Solicitors, has revealed that only 18% of patients in the North West said that they had made a formal complaint about the NHS service. This figure compares to 23% of patients in the West Midlands and 22% in East Anglia, and is below the national average of 19%.
While the level of complaints is low in the North West, the report suggests that the local services need to work harder to make people feel more comfortable coming forward. These complaints may not even represent the true extent of dissatisfaction, with a further 37% of patients saying that although they were unhappy, they had opted not to make a complaint. Many of this group said that they had chosen to stay silent in case making a complaint affected the quality of care they received.
The study also suggests that patients in the North West would benefit from having a more effective complaints system, with patients scoring the current quality of the complaints system as 7 out of a possible 10.
The low levels of complaints are surprising, given the recent negative attention that the North West region has attracted since Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust were placed into special measures. These NHS Foundation Trusts are being monitored for failings in patient care and hospital governance, with extensive procedures being put in place to try and improve the service.
The findings of this study have been announced at the start of a year-long campaign to help investigate ways the NHS can improve its ability to listen to patients. The Listening Project has been organised by Fletchers Solicitors, which deals with one in every 15 medical negligence cases in the UK.
CEO of Fletchers Solicitors Ed Fletcher explains: “We see first hand how frustrated people become when things go wrong within the NHS and, after a prolonged period of negative headlines, it feels like the NHS finally has reached a positive turning point.
“Recent announcements concerning efforts to create a better culture of listening are a step in the right direction and what’s heartening from our research is that the rest of peoples’ experiences of the NHS are very positive.
“However, we believe more needs to be done to understand the experiences of patients and understand what it feels like to face the bureaucracy of the current complaints system. Local services in the North West should be working harder to make patients feel more comfortable coming forward.
“The NHS’ duty to listen to the communities it serves is a crucial part of its constitution, as is the duty of the public to respond with feedback on what’s good and bad about the way the NHS operates.”
For more information, visit www.fletcherssolicitors.co.uk.
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