This site is intended for health professionals only

Rise in complaints against nurses

Complaints from members of the public against nurses and midwives rose in the last year, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has said.

There were a total of 1,378 allegations against nurses and midwives, a slight drop on the 1,389 complaints during the previous 12 months, the NMC added.

The UK regulator for nurses and midwives has published the figures in its annual fitness to practise report for 2005-06.  

Almost 50% of allegations came from employers, down from 60% last year, but the number received from members of public rose to 22%, up from 17%, and police referrals increased to 19%, up from 14% last year.

Nearly 45% of complaints against nurses and midwives involved incidents that occurred in the NHS, while around 37% of cases involved a residential or nursing home.

And there has been a 125% increase in the number of cases proceeding beyond the initial investigation stage as a result of moving from the old rules using the criminal standard to measures incorporating the civil standard of proof in 2004.

During a period of 2005-06 using the old rules, 252 went to a hearing and 128 staff were removed from the register, while 31 allegations went to a hearing under the new rules and 16 were struck off.

Copyright © PA Business 2007

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Clinical Zone: Professional

Why do you think more complaints are being heard against nurses and midwives? (Please supply your comment, name and location in the feedback box below. Your details will not be published if you so request. Terms and conditions apply)

"I have observed a general decline in standards of courtesy and manners and lament the fact that this includes a significant number of my nurse colleagues. I do think that patient expectations are greater and also note that the respect and deference that once existed has now gone, which is not altogether a bad thing. My experience of dealing with complaints has been that I have been saddened by the lack of care and professionalism that I believe all patients have a right to expect. Poor leadership has often been a factor. However, when nurses need support and representation from their union/professional organisation, that's often of a poor standard too" - Name and address supplied

"I have seen many patient complaints against nursing and allied staff, primarily when I was a senior nurse in a local A&E dept. The vast majority were vexatious and very often written by a third person that was not even present at the hospital. Many complaints were levied against staff because the complainant did not like the doctors' diagnosis, were not given free medication or had to wait a long time for treatment. Personal and hurtful comments were commonplace, such as "she didn't care that my aunt was in pain" or "they just couldn't care less, just discharged me without further treatment". Many allegations were made about being "unprofessional" and phrases such as "fat", "untidy", "dirty", "looks a mess" and "miserable face" were  commonplace. Who do these people think they are,  making assumptions as to the professionalism of harassed and over stressed staff? Why would a nurse work in this sort of environment under this sort of pressure for the low rate of pay if they did not care? If you take away the malicious complaints from people who did not get a cup of tea or who weren't able to jump the queues the actual relevant complaint level would be very low" - Name and address supplied

"Because they are understaffed, under stress and the general public expect and demand more" - Name and address supplied

"In the last three years I have had to attend, with relatives, appointments and visit various hospitals in my locality, and have observed at close quarters nursing care on many levels. During this time I had the misfortune to attend CHD and haematology units dealing with both childhood leukaemia and non-Hodgkinson. I have seen and will praise nursing staff that displayed a high standard of care and carried out their duties in a professional manner. I wish that I could say that these were in the majority, but I can't. The majority I am ashamed to say showed behaviour that was rude, impatient, intolerant and showed complete disregard for both patient and relatives. Hospital policy and infection control procedures were totally disregarded. In truth I feel that there are many instances were people who use health care facilities do not complain enough and if like myself they could identify the flaws in the system we would indeed be inundated. However most patients and relatives do not complain for fear of reprisals. I do of course acknowledge that patients and relatives can and are in many instances aggressive, rude and demanding and that care staff can be placed in a vulnerable position. There is no excuse for this from either side. However look at it from patients and family point of view. We are in a very privileged position, we are given vulnerable people to care for and we should lead by example" - Name and address supplied