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Nursing complaints show 57% rise

Midwifery and nursing complaints have risen 57% - a record increase year-on-year, according to a new study.

The number of new referrals from health service workers and the public was seen as significant by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which saw 833 complaints in January and February.

This was up 57% on the same period in 2010, when 530 complaints were made. The watchdog said it received such referrals about complaints from sources including the public, police, employers and health staff.

The NMC said more detailed research was called for in order to look at the exact reasons for the rise across the UK. NMC chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes said: "It is encouraging that employers and members of the public are more confident about referring their complaints to us.

"We have worked hard to make our complaints-handling processes more efficient and effective and we have set demanding customer-focused targets for delivering our fitness to practise services.

"However, the fact that other healthcare regulators have also experienced similar dramatic increases in the volume of their complaints is a serious cause for concern and indicates the need for more detailed research into the underlying reasons for these trends."

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: "The NMC plays a vital role in protecting the public, and an increase in referrals should be looked at closely.

"However, with a workforce of over 600,000, this is still a very small proportion of registered nurses.

"We are encouraged that both patients and colleagues do feel increasingly empowered to raise concerns about care and to feel confident that their concerns will be investigated and tackled where necessary.

"The process followed by the regulators must be as clear and easy to understand as possible, while maintaining the confidence of both the profession and the public."

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I couldn't agreed more with Maryam Omitogun. Most managers even encourage patients to complain, just to flex muscles. I have witnessed innocent nurses being victimised due to their assertiveness. Sad to say the least, most of these nurses are more competent than their managers and practice autonomously. Could it be envy?" - Lovina Fox-Cobham, London

"Complaints are increasing because of lack of understanding of the nursing profession and people that call themselves managers without being fit to be in that position at times causing problems for colleagues. Unnecessary complaints are more common in the nursing profession in the UK. It depends about the reason for the complaint, who made the complaint and the person that complaint is made against. If the complaint is from a patient, relative or public and causes complications or risks to the health of the patients or the clients, proper investigation should be carried out based on the level of the staff that the complaint is made against. This should be done as quickly as possible and with honesty and openness. If the complaint is from a colleague or another professional and the issue is between two professionals, investigation should be carried out according to the professional level not to based on superiority or claiming a managerial instruction on a colleague. In order to reduce the problem of complaints, competent staff should be employed in a correct position and in the area of interest, training and update should be given regularly by people that are knowledgeable in an area of nursing. The idea of trying to become a specialist without having necessary skills, knowledge, experience, education and ability should
stop. All qualified, trained nurses should respect the views of colleagues and respect each other and also allow people to work on the level of their competency and independently so far the person is trained and qualified" - Maryam Omitogun, London