Neil pressed on NHS complaints rise
Tuesday 24th September 2013, 12:11PM BST.
The Health Secretary must take responsibility for a rise in complaints about hospitals and other NHS services in Scotland, including the near doubling of grievances against the ambulance service, according to opposition parties.
Alex Neil came under attack after new figures showed complaints about hospitals and community health services, such as health visiting, specialist nursing and addiction services, have risen by 13% over the past year.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats blamed the increase on “Scottish Government pressure” on NHS staff and resources.
Meanwhile, the Tories said the Scottish Ambulance Service also had serious questions to answer over the rise in its complaints, up from 214 in 2011/12 to 412 during 2012/13.
Official statistics showed there were 9,161 complaints about hospitals and community health services in 2012/13, up from 8,117 in 2011/12. This follows a 15% increase between 2010/11 and 2011/12.
In 2012/13, 28% of these complaints were fully upheld, 35% were partially upheld and 36% were not upheld. Between 2011/12 and 2012/13, the number of complaints upheld or partially upheld increased by 17%.
There were almost 4,000 complaints about family health services, such as GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists, and just over 1,200 complaints relating to special health boards, and national and support organisations. The latter was a 31% increase on 2011/12 figures.
Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “No doubt the Scottish Government will fob this increase off by saying it’s never been easier to complain, hence the rise.
“But the truth is the rising number of complaints comes against a backdrop of falling staff numbers and struggling hospital wards.”
He added: “The Scottish Ambulance Service has very serious questions to answer here.
“For double the number of people to complain about this crucial and valued service is quite extraordinary, and this requires an urgent explanation.
“The reality here is the Scottish Government is so obsessed by the independence referendum that it is not paying the attention it should to the NHS.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume said: “The Health Secretary cannot shirk responsibility for this unacceptable rise in the number of upheld complaints.
“The increase in the number of hospital complaints received and those which were upheld shows that pressures piled on by the SNP Government are taking their toll on the NHS.”
Labour’s wellbeing spokeswoman Rhoda Grant said: “This is a steep increase in complaints and sadly reflects the growing issues within the NHS that the SNP’s culture of cuts has caused.
“Rather than Alex Neil suggesting that staff are not meeting standards of care he should instead take responsibility for his actions and provide more support for health workers to cope with the increasing pressures of rising patient numbers, cuts to beds and nursing staff.”
Mr Neil said: “To give this some perspective, the NHS in Scotland oversees an estimated 24 million GP or practice nurse consultations, over 4.5 million hospital outpatient appointments and 1.65 million A&E visits each year.
“But in an organisation of this size, care can sometimes fall below the standards we all demand. In those cases I want to encourage patients to give us feedback, whether good or bad, so that health boards can continually improve the care they provide. These statistics demonstrate this is happening.
“That is in line with the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011, which was introduced in April last year and provides the legal right to complain, or give feedback or comments.”
He added: “It is important to note that this release is the first time that complaints in relation to pharmacies and opticians services are included.
“Boards are also more proactively promoting the complaints procedure and encouraging feedback. More staff are now aware of what constitutes a complaint and data collection has improved.”
He added: “I have been very clear that health boards should fully investigate complaints and demonstrate that action has been taken as a result, to resolve any issues and ensure they do not happen again.”