NHS Lothian’s complaints results ‘not credible’

Fewer complaints are being upheld by NHS Lothian. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Fewer complaints are being upheld by NHS Lothian. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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COMPLAINTS against the NHS have less chance of being upheld in Lothian than in any other health board region in Scotland – despite the number of grievances spiralling to a record high.

New figures have revealed that of the 1382 complaints made against NHS Lothian in 2012-13, just 14.7 per cent were fully upheld, almost half the national figure of 27.9 per cent.

It was the fourth year running NHS Lothian accepted full responsibility in a lower proportion of cases than any other health board and bosses today pledged to investigate.

Despite having so few upheld complaints, issues raised formally with NHS Lothian rocketed by more than a quarter – the highest rise of any other mainland board. While complaints against the NHS are increasing across the country, Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack described the scale of the surge in Lothian as “alarming”.

The largest health board in Scotland, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, saw a rise of 7.9 per cent compared to the increase in Lothian, the second largest, of 25.3 per cent.

Ms Boyack added: “It doesn’t seem credible that patients in the Lothians are half as likely to have their complaint upheld compared to those in other parts of Scotland.

“This seems at odds with recent figures from the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman who are hearing and upholding more appeals against NHS Lothian complaints decisions.”

Of the complaints made in the last financial year, 40.7 per cent were not upheld and 43.4 per cent were partially upheld.

Stuart Wilson, NHS Lothian’s director of communications and public affairs, said new methods of complaining, had driven the rise alongside high-profile issues such as the waiting times scandal.

Mr Wilson said: “We have been noting that increase for some months now and have taken action to change the way in which we deal with complaints.

“Early indications are this is having a positive impact on our efforts to decrease overall complaints and increase our acknowledgement and response rates.

“We are also reviewing the way in which complaints are investigated in NHS Lothian and expect that in the next few months a new system will be in place which will apply a more rigorous investigative process into complaints. That review will also examine the reason behind so few complaints being upheld.”