Patients are complaining about the NHS more than ever, official figures revealed today.
Over 225,000 written complaints were made about England’s ailing health service in 2021/22.
This is up from nearly 210,000 in the year before Covid hit and just over 160,000 in 2011/12, when records began.
Communications, clinical treatment, staff attitude and behavior, and patient care were the areas they complained about the most.
It comes amid enormous pressure on the NHS, which is preparing to face the “harshest winter in its history”.
Backlogs have piled up to all-time highs, with performances on A&E and ambulance response times plunging to all-time lows.
More than 225,000 written complaints were written about the crisis health service in 2021/22
The looming threat of strikes and a ‘triple epidemic’ of covid, flu and other seasonal viruses could bring even more misery to the health service this winter.
The total number of NHS complaints made has increased every year, with the exception of 2015/16 and 2020/21.
Last year’s drop is partly due to hospitals doing less administrative work during the pandemic.
GPs and dentists made up the majority of all written complaints (120,000), with the other 105,000 related to hospitals and community health services.
Communication was the area most claimed by hospitals, representing 17.4 percent of all complaints.
In primary care, clinical treatment and errors received the most complaints. This represented 15.4 percent of all dental and GP complaints.
Communication with patients stood out as receiving the most heat, accounting for 17.4 percent of all hospital complaints.
Staff attitude and behavior were also commonly criticized, being the focus of 11.4 per cent of GP and dental complaints.
Ambulance performance statistics for October show that paramedics took the longest to reach category one, two, and three calls since records began in 2017. Ambulances took an average of 1 hour, one minute, and 19 seconds to reach respond to category two calls (red bars), such as burns, epilepsy, and stroke. This is more than three times as long as the 18-minute target.
Ambulances were unable to respond to one in four 999 calls last month
New ambulance data for October shows that emergency services are collapsing even ahead of the anticipated busy winter period.
Data shows paramedics were unable to answer a quarter of 999 calls last month, a record number, because they were stuck outside hospitals unable to unload patients.
This contributed to an estimated 5,000 patients in England potentially suffering “serious harm” as a result of ambulance delays, another dismal record.
Senior ambulance officers said patients were dying every day due to delays and the emergency could no longer play its role as a “safety net” for people who needed urgent help.
Martin Flaherty, managing director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), which represents the heads of England’s 10 ambulance services, told the guardian: “The life-saving safety net provided by NHS ambulance services is severely compromised by these unnecessary delays and patients are killed and harmed on a daily basis as a result.”
Data collected by AACE shows that 169,000 hours of ambulance crew time were lost in October due to patient delivery delays.
Lost time meant paramedics were unable to handle 135,000 calls, representing 23 percent of the services’ total capacity to respond to emergencies.
Rachel Harrison, national secretary of the GMB union, which represents 15,000 employees in the English ambulance services, said the data showed a “collapsing” service.
“These figures show that it is on its knees and close to collapse as a result of vacancies, lack of funds, morale at a rock bottom and the demand for ambulance care which has doubled to 14 million calls a year since 2010.” , said.
The data also recorded that the average delivery time for ambulance crews to A&E in October was 42 minutes, 12 minutes longer than the October 2021 figure.
In addition, the total number of one, two, three and 10 hour transfers was the highest ever recorded.
The attitude and behavior of staff were also commonly criticized, being the focus of 10.6 percent of hospital complaints and 11.4 percent of dental and GP complaints.
In the case of hospitals, complaints about the level of patient care, including nutrition and hydration, accounted for 12.7% of all complaints.
Communication was also not good for the GP and dental, accounting for the second highest percentage (13.2) of all complaints.
Another area they commonly complained about included the availability and length of GP and dentist appointments.
It comes as damning figures revealed today that winter mayhem has hit the NHS earlier than ever, with flu admissions already 10 times higher than last year.
Influenza levels in hospitals are already double the peak of last winter.
Bed occupancy rates are already close to the 95 per cent mark, giving the NHS little room to cope with the seasonal pressures expected in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, thousands of patients who are taken to the hospital by ambulance are forced to wait at least an hour before being delivered. Experts have described the service in crisis as ‘collapsing’.
The data laying bare the dire state of the NHS comes from the first winter situation report of the season.
Officials warned it was a sign that the health service was facing the “most challenging winter in its history”.
An average of 344 beds were occupied by flu patients in England each day from November 14 to 20.
This is more than 10 times the level seen in early December 2021, when an average of 31 patients were receiving flu treatment each day.
Predicted to be high after the Covid lockdowns weakened our immunity to the seasonal threat, last year’s numbers only peaked at around 140.
Ambulance deliveries also continue to suffer, with one in 10 patients arriving at hospital trapped and having to wait for more than an hour to be delivered as medics struggle to find them a bed.
Just over 10,000 patients had to wait more than an hour before paramedics could unload them.
This compares with just 8,300 in the first week of winter data last year and just 3,200 patients in 2019, the most recent data before the pandemic.
Ambulances stuck in hospitals waiting to deliver patients is a contributing factor to dangerous wait times for emergencies like heart attacks.