Complaints about acute trusts October to December 2015

Summarising this quarter

On this page you can find the latest statistical information about complaints we've handled about every acute trust in England between October and December 2015 (quarter 3, 2015-16).

The data covers each of the three stages of our process:

  • Stage 1: Our initial checks
  • Stage 2: Deciding whether to investigate (assessing the complaint)
  • Stage 3: Our investigations

Stage 1: Our initial checks

We usually expect people to try to get their problem sorted out with the organisation they are unhappy with before they ask us to look into it. Many of the people who contact us haven't done this, but we can give them information to help them get started. Others have already tried to get their complaint sorted out locally and are not happy with the response they have had; we can look at these complaints in more detail under stage two of our process.

In quarter 3 (October to December 2015) we received 2,621 new complaints about NHS acute trusts in England. This is in-line with the previous quarter, where we saw 2,658 complaints; it represents an increase of 6% compared to the same period last year (October to December 2014), when we received 2,482 complaints. This increase is in line with the variation we usually see from quarter to quarter.

Stage 2: Deciding whether to investigate (assessing the complaint)

At the second stage of our process, we look in more depth at what has happened and decide whether we should investigate. We call this an assessment. We look at whether the organisation made a mistake or provided a poor service, what effect that may have had, and what the organisation may have done already to put things right.

Not all the cases we assess are passed on for an investigation: sometimes we can see that there may have been failings, but the organisation has, in our view, already done what it should to address these and resolve the complaint. In other cases we were able to resolve these cases without a full investigation by working with the organisation complained about.

In quarter 3 we assessed 804 complaints about acute trusts compared to 625 in quarter 2. The increase is the result of us receiving more complaints in quarter 2 than in quarter 1, which in turn meant there were more complaints ready to be assessed in quarter 3 compared to quarter 2. The number of complaints we receive tends to fluctuate throughout the year, and this has an impact on both the number of complaints we assess and the number we investigate.

We passed 468 of the complaints we assessed to our investigations team (stage three in our process).This compares to 331 in the previous quarter. Again, this is as a result of receiving a greater number of complaints in quarter 1.

Stage 3: Our investigations

When we complete an investigation, we can fully uphold, partly uphold or not uphold the complaint. If we fully or partly uphold the complaint, we can make recommendations to the organisation to put things right. This could mean asking the organisation to acknowledge its mistakes and apologise or take other steps to put things right for the individuals involved. We can also ask organisations to take action to prevent the same mistakes happening to someone else and to make services better for everyone.

In quarter 3, we upheld (fully or partly) 222 of the complaints that we investigated. We didn't uphold 210 complaints. A small number (35) of complaints were discontinued or resolved before the investigation had finished. In quarter 3 we upheld 48% of complaints we investigated about acute trusts. This is a small increase on the previous quarter where we upheld 45% of our investigations. However, this difference is not significant.

The table below shows how many complaints we handled about acute trusts in total, for each stage of our process. The file at the end of this page gives the data for each acute trust.


  Q3 2015-16

Q2 2015-16

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

Total complaints about acute trusts


2621 2658 2393 2720 2482

Total assesed

804 625 938 887 640

Total accepted for investigation


468 331 652 559 449
Total partly or fully upheld 222 217 174 190 173
Total  not upheld 210 261 217 235 188
Total  discontinued or resolved without a finding 35 35 37 26 28
Uphold rate  48% 45% 45% 45% 48%

Data considerations


We share this data to encourage discussions about why some organisations appear to have a significantly higher (or lower) number of complaints investigated by us and to help trusts assess the efficiency of their own complaint handling. However, taken in isolation, our data is not necessarily a measure of the quality or performance of individual trusts. There is variation in the size of acute trusts and also in the kind of services they provide. These factors can all affect the volume of complaints we receive about trusts. At the end of each year we produce an annual report on acute trust complaints. This combines this quarterly data as well as providing overall information on the issues people complained to us about. It also includes a measure of total hospital activity for each trust, which allows more meaningful comparisons to be made between trusts.


The data we share is accurate at the time of publication. However, a small number of the decisions we make on complaints can be subject to a review if new information comes to light, 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 complaints.

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.

How we record complaints involving more than one trust

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 complaint from an individual, or an investigation we have undertaken, relates to three separate trusts, we would have counted this three times – once for each of the trusts involved.