Formal complaints to the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust on the rise


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Hundreds of written complaints were made to the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust last year.

The Society for Acute Medicine says rising numbers of complaints across the NHS are unsurprising, warning that staff are ‘stretched across all sectors’.

The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust received 311 written complaints from patients and their families in 2018, according to the latest NHS data. That’s an increase of 5 per cent on the previous year, when 295 complaints were made.

Nearly a quarter of complaints raised issues about inadequate communication from hospital staff, and a further 18 per cent concerned medical treatments received in hospital.

At the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust, staff resolved 314 formal complaints last year, including some from previous years.

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In 16 per cent of cases, evidence was found to support the complaint and an admission was made by the trust, and 39 per cent were recorded as partially upheld. The remainder were deemed to be unsubstantiated, frivolous or vexatious.

Trusts with limited funding can find themselves unable to resolve complaints, according to the Society for Acute Medicine.

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The society’s president, Dr Nick Scriven, said: “You feel for staff under incredible pressure, doing their best but knowing it won’t please everyone.

“However, it is vital trusts engage openly with and seek to learn from the complaints process itself, and take appropriate action on complaints that are upheld.”

Patients’ rights group Healthwatch said its members complain because they want to improve quality of care in the future.

Policy head Jacob Lant said: “Rather than just counting the number of complaints, what people want to see is what the NHS has changed as a result.

“This is the best way to build confidence in the complaints process, and show the public that the NHS is always willing to learn.”

Acute trusts across England recorded 76,500 complaints last year, up from 57,000 in 2015.

NHS Improvement said this rise is in part because of improvements to the complaints process.

A Trust spokesperson said: “We greatly value patient feedback and our strong governance process ensures we investigate and learn from genuine complaints and concerns, making improvements to our services where things have gone wrong.

“There are more than 800,000 interactions with patients a year at the RD&E and while the vast majority of patients are happy with the care and service they receive, it is important we listen to and learn from the people we serve to help us continue delivering safe, high-quality services.”

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