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Breaking down the barriers: Older people and complaints about health care

Our evidence

Our evidence on the particular barriers older people face when it comes to raising concerns and complaints is from the following sources:

National survey with the UK population

Earlier in the year we undertook a national survey with 4,263 people. The survey explored experiences and perceptions of complaining about the NHS in England and some UK public services. The survey included responses from 689 individuals over the age of 6515.

We have used evidence from the responses of the older people who participated in this survey throughout this report.

Talking to older people and their carers

Earlier this year we worked with a national charity, Independent Age,16 to organise three focus groups across the country with older people and their carers. We asked people about their experiences of raising concerns when they felt that something had gone wrong, and what they felt were the main obstacles to raising a concern or a complaint.

The focus groups took place in London (Notting Hill), Manchester (Eccles) and the South Coast (Poole), and a total of 35 older people and their carers came to the groups. The majority of people were over the age of 65, although some carers were younger. 

Our case work

We have also included a number of case studies about complaints we have investigated. 
Information from our casework is inevitably based on those people who have been able to complain about an organisation, and who felt able to take their complaint further when they were dissatisfied with the response they received. Nevertheless, the cases we have included do help to illustrate the kinds of issues older people experience when dealing with the health and social care sector.


15 What people think about complaining, online survey commissioned by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and carried out by YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,263 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1-7 April 2015.
16 Independent Age is a national charity that supports older people with free advice and information on health and social care, as well as offering volunteer befriending services.