Patients are complaining about the NHS more than ever, according to official figures.
In 2021/22, more than 225,000 written complaints were made about England’s ailing health service.
This is up from nearly 210,000 the year before Covid hit and just over 160,000 in 2011/12 when the records started.
Communication, clinical treatment, staff attitude and behavior and patient care were the most complained areas.
It’s coming under enormous pressure in the NHS, which is gearing up to face the ‘hardest winter on record’.
Backlogs have reached record highs, with emergency department performance and ambulance response times plummeting to record lows.
More than 225,000 written complaints were made about the ailing health service in 2021/22
The looming threat of strikes and a ‘triplemic’ of covid, flu and other seasonal viruses could add to the health care woes this winter.
The total number of NHS complaints lodged is increasing every year, with the exception of 2015/16 and 2020/21.
Last year’s drop is partly due to hospitals doing less administration during the pandemic.
General practitioners and dentists made up the bulk of all written complaints (120,000), while the other 105,000 related to hospitals and public health services.
Communications was the most complained area for hospitals, accounting for 17.4 percent of all complaints.
For primary care, clinical handling and errors received the most complaints. This made up 15.4 percent of all GP and dental complaints.
Communication to patients came out on top for receiving the most heat, accounting for 17.4 percent of all hospital complaints
The attitude and behavior of staff was also often criticized, with 11.4 percent of GP and dental complaints focused on
Ambulance performance statistics for October show that paramedics took longer to arrive on category one, two and three calls since records began in 2017. Ambulances took an average of 1 hour, one minute and 19 seconds to arrive respond to category two calls (red bars), such as burns, epilepsy, and strokes. This is more than three times the target of 18 minutes
Ambulances failed to respond to one in four 999 calls last month
New ambulance data for October shows that emergency services are already collapsing ahead of the predicted busy winter period.
The data shows paramedics were unable to respond to a quarter of 999 calls last month, a record number, because they were trapped outside hospitals and unable to discharge patients.
This contributed to an estimated 5,000 patients in England possibly suffering ‘serious harm’ due to ambulance delays, another grim record.
Senior paramedics said patients were dying every day due to delays and the emergency could no longer fulfill 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 being seriously compromised by these unnecessary delays and patients die every day and suffer damage as a result.’
Data collected by AACE shows that 169,000 hours of paramedics were lost in October due to delays in transferring patients.
The lost time prevented paramedics from answering 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 workers in UK ambulance services, said the data showed a service in ‘meltdown’.
“These numbers show it is on its knees and on the brink of collapse due to job vacancies, underfunding, very low morale and the demand for ambulance care has doubled to 14 million calls a year since 2010,” she said.
The data also recorded that the average transfer time for paramedics to A&E in October was 42 minutes, 12 minutes more than in October 2021.
In addition, the total number of transfers of one, two, three and ten hours was the highest on record.
Staff attitudes and behavior were also frequently criticized as this was the focus of 10.6 percent of hospital complaints and 11.4 percent of GP and dental complaints.
For hospitals, complaints about standard of patient care, including nutrition and hydration, made up 12.7 percent of all complaints filed.
Communication also did not go well with GPs and dentists, accounting for the second highest percentage (13.2) of all complaints.
Another frequently raised topic was the availability and duration of GP and dental appointments.
It comes as devastating figures revealed today that winter chaos has hit the NHS earlier than ever, with flu admissions already 10 times higher than last year.
Flu rates in hospitals are already twice as high as last winter’s peak.
Bed occupancy rates are already close to 95 per cent, leaving NHS trusts little room to cope with the seasonal pressures expected in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, thousands of patients being taken to hospital in an ambulance must wait at least an hour before being transferred. Experts describe the ailing service as “in crisis.”
The data exposing the dire state of the NHS comes from the first winter situation report for the season.
Officials warned it was a sign that the health service is heading into its “most challenging winter ever.”
From 14 to 20 November, an average of 344 beds were occupied by flu patients in England every day.
This is more than 10 times as many as at the beginning of December 2021, when an average of 31 patients per day were treated for flu.
Last year’s numbers, which were predicted to be high after Covid lockdowns blunted our immunity to the seasonal threat, only peaked at around 140.
Ambulance transfers also continue to suffer, with one in 10 patients arriving at hospital waiting more than an hour to be transferred as medics struggle to find them a bed.
Just over 10,000 patients had to wait more than an hour before they could be unloaded by paramedics.
This compares to just 8,300 in the first week of winter data last year, and just 3,200 patients in 2019, the most recent pre-pandemic data.
Ambulances stuck in hospitals waiting to transfer patients is one of the contributing factors to dangerous wait times for emergencies like heart attacks.