Patient complaints up 40% in Trusts that serve Mid Ulster

ICU monitor with several patients
ICU monitor with several patients

The number of complaints from patients in the Southern and Northern Trusts combined, have increased by 40 per cent in the last five years.

The issues, which include problems with medical, dental, mental and emergency care, have been divided into categories by the Trusts with the most complaints being made in relation to diagnosis, operations and treatment.

The figures, which were correlated and provided by the Health and Social Care Trusts, also illustrate growing dissatisfaction in relation to communication, patient experience, admissions, discharges and also waiting times.

Of the two Trusts that service the entire Mid Ulster area, the Southern Trust fared worst in relation to the growing number of complaints received - almost 50% in the last five years.

While taken alone, the increase in complaints in the Northern Trust was much less, but still substantial [28%].

Together however, they make up almost a third of all complaints received across Northern Ireland in the last year with 2,056 grievances submitted to medical authorities between them.

The Southern Trust made up the lion’s share with 1,166 issues raised, while in the Northern Trust there was a total of 890 complaints between 2014 and 2015.

The sorts of health services that attracted the most criticism in both areas were acute care, elderly services and family and child care services.

Almost 1,000 charges were brought between the Trusts in relation to acute care alone - that’s just shy of 45% of all complaints made by patients.

Care provision for people with mental health problems and physical or learning disabilities were not free from fault either.

In the Southern Trust 67 complaints were raised in relation to help for those with learning disabilities in the last year, with a further 100 patients voicing dissatisfaction with mental health care.

In the Northern Trust 86 cases were brought forward in relation to mental health, but the Trust did much better around learning disabilities with almost 80% less complaints than their counterparts.

In both areas most of the criticisms made by patients were in relation to their diagnosis, treatment and any operations they may have had - meaning the Trusts have some work to do on this front.

Day-to-day services such as GPs, dental care, pharmacies and ophthalmic care providers were also included in the statistics, but fared much better in relation to the number of grievances lodged against them.

Across the whole of Northern Ireland the Health and Social Care Trusts received just 224 complaints against GPs - up from 199 five years ago - and most of these were in relation to treatment and care, staff attitudes and again communication and information.

Neither pharmacists or ophthalmologists had a single complaints lodged against them last year, down from three and one, respectively, in 2010-11, while dentists managed to halve the number of complaints that were submitted against them - from 13 to 6 - in five years.

While the Southern Trust said it receives as many compliments as complaints, the Northern Trust said the number of concerns raised with it over the last five years have “remained at a similar level” with a drop in the last year.

Southern Health and Social Care Trust said: “We receive about 1,000 complaints each year [but] the Trust also receives many thousands of messages from people who are satisfied with the care and treatment they receive.

“We always welcome and encourage patient feedback so that we can improve our care when it is appropriate and possible to do so and the learning from complaints is used to ensure our services respond to patient need.

“Each complaint is fully investigated before we send a comprehensive response.”

A spokesperson for the Northern Trust added: “Over the last 4 years, the number of issues have remained at a similar level, and this year, there was a slight decrease (890) comparing to last year (997).”