COMPLAINTS about NHS Lothian soared by 30 per cent over the last year, with treatment, staff and waiting times the most frequent cause of discontent.
Official statistics show the number of complaints to the health board rose from 871 in 2010/11 to 1126 in 2011/12.
The rise is one of the highest in Scotland and twice the national average increase. But just 15.5 per cent were fully upheld – the lowest in Scotland. A further 37.4 per cent were partially upheld and 45.6 per cent were not upheld.
NHS Lothian also insisted it had improved access to the complaints system, which it believes is behind the rise.
The statistics show complaints about treatment were up from 307 to 406, while complaints about staff rose from 259 to 324 and complaints about waiting times increased from 93 to 153.
Lothians Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said: “With all of the controversy that has surrounded NHS Lothian in the past year on the waiting times scandal and staff cuts it is not surprising that the number of complaints has rocketed.
“The rise is the latest indicator that services are being stretched to breaking point.
“Time and again the health board have highlighted the lack of capacity to deal with the volume of patients that they serve. At the same time, staff numbers in key areas like nursing and midwifery have been falling.”
Theresa Fyffe, Scotland director of the Royal College of Nursing, said it was vital that patients and the public were able to raise their concerns so that services could be improved. She said: “With nurse numbers at their lowest since 2005, nursing staff have less time to provide high quality care for individual patients. Where complaints against nurses are upheld we need to look at and deal with the root causes of the problem.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “It is no coincidence that, as the SNP slashes nursing and midwifery numbers, the level of complaints rises.
“A significant proportion of these complaints is about staff, who are clearly feeling the strain of the various cutbacks.”
Stuart Wilson, spokesman for NHS Lothian, said the health board took all complaints very seriously and used the information gathered to improve and shape services.
He said: “We have worked hard to improve the ways in which we communicate with patients about the complaints and feedback process and made it as easy as possible for people to air their views.
“As a result of these improved services, including a dedicated phoneline and range of electronic options, the numbers of complaints we receive has increased. We do not believe this is because of an increase in the actual number of concerns surrounding patient care, but because of better access and recording.”
Complaints across Scotland about hospital treatment and community health services are now at their highest level in eight years.
Some 8,117 complaints were made in 2011/12, up 1,062 in the space of 12 months, the figures revealed.
It is the largest increase since NHS procedures were revised in 2005 and is the equivalent of 22 complaints being lodged every day by patients.
In NHS Lothian, complaints about treatment topped the list, accounting for 406 out of the total 1126 complaints; complaints about staff numbered 324 and complaints about waiting times 153.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that previous research showed that patients were reluctant to
She said: “Revised guidance to ensure that local processes are developed to encourage, welcome and view feedback whether good or bad as opportunities for improvement was issued in March.”