Complaints about acute trusts April to June 2015

Summarising this quarter

In general, taking into account seasonal variability, there has been a gradual increase in the number of enquiries we have received from members of the public relating to acute trusts. Over the course of the most recent quarter we received 2,393 enquiries, this compares to 2,172 over the same period last year.

There has been a gradual increase in the number of cases that we have accepted for investigation. This is primarily as a result of changes we made in 2013 to the way we investigate complaints. We now undertake a greater number of investigations than we did in the past. We now investigate a complaint if we think there may be a case to answer, whereas in the past we would only investigate if we were fairly certain that there was. This has increased the number of cases we accept for investigation.

  Q1 2015-16 Q4 2014-15 Q3 2014-15 Q2 2014-15 Q1 2014-15

Total complaints about acute trusts


2,393 2,720 2,482 2,296 2,172 
Total accepted for investigation 659 559 449 433 394
Total  fully or partly upheld 174 190 173 157 206

Total not upheld 


217 235 188 250 253

Uphold rate

45% 45% 48% 39% 45%

Data considerations

It is important to recognise that our data should not necessarily be seen as a measure of quality or performance. The purpose of this report is to provide statistical insight into the complaints that we receive, and to encourage discussions about why some organisations appear to have a significantly higher (or lower) level of complaints that translate into investigations. We hope that the information in this report will be of use to individuals working at each acute trust. They can then assess the efficiency of their own complaint handling processes, and feed into a wider discussion across the sector about what is working well within the health complaints process, and what can be improved.

The data contained in these releases is accurate at the time of publication. However, a small number of our decisions can be subject to a review, and this can lead to changes in the number of complaints we accept for investigation and the number of investigated complaints we uphold. Any changes would affect only a small number of cases.

Acute trusts are also subject to change. Occasionally trusts will merge and close or new trusts will be created. This means that direct quarterly comparisons are not always possible. Whilst we will always attempt to provide the most up-to-date breakdown of complaints for acute trusts across the country, on occasion, it is possible that an administrative change in the operation of a trust is not reflected in our quarterly data. We undertake a full audit of the complaints we have received about acute trusts at the end of every year. Any changes in trust administration not picked up in our quarterly data will be addressed at this point.

There is also variation in the kind of activity trusts undertake, and some cannot be considered purely acute trusts. Several trusts are integrated providers, supplying other services alongside acute care. As different kinds of activity are associated with different numbers of complaints, these data should not be used to make direct comparisons between trusts.

A number of complaints we received related to more than one acute trust. In these cases, we have counted the complaint more than once. For instance, if a single enquiry from an individual, or an investigation we have undertaken, relates to three separate trusts, we would have counted this information three times. This differs from how we have reported on complaints in other reports, including our annual report, where information is reported on an individual complainant basis. This should be considered when comparing the findings of this report to our annual report.

At the end of each year we produce a report which combines this quarterly data, as well as providing overall information on the issues which lead people to complain about acute trusts. This information is not included in our quarterly data release. The yearly data also includes a measure of total hospital activity for each trust. This allows more meaningful comparisons to be made between trusts, by accounting for the impact of hospital size on the volume of complaints received. This information is not included in our quarterly data release. As such, the quarterly data should not be used to make direct comparisons between trusts.