The number of written complaints about hospital and community health services has dropped 4% to 90,801 in the year 2006-7, marking the lowest number since they hit an all-time high in 2000-1.

The figures, by the NHS Information Centre, also show that between April and August last year 75% of complaints against hospital and community health services were settled within the target of 20 working days, showing no improvement over previous two years.

The majority of complaints were made against medical staff (42%), nursing and midwifery (22%) and trust admin staff (10%), while in terms of subject category, most fell into the ‘All aspects of clinical treatment’ class (38%) and 12% were regarding ‘Attitude of staff’.

Commenting on the findings, Tim Straughan, Acting Chief Executive of the IC, said that, while they show overall that fewer formal written complaints are being received, there are still some areas where complaints are on the rise.

“Locally, NHS organisations can use the information to help plan and improve their services and nationally, the data helps monitor patient satisfaction across the whole NHS”, he said.

Prescriptions continue to rise
Meanwhile, the IC also released figures showing that, for the first time in 10 years, England has more than 10,000 community pharmacy contractors.

The report, General Pharmaceutical Services in England and Wales 2006-7, showed the number climbed 2.6% to reach 10,133 in March.

Furthermore, it found that the amount of prescription items dispensed by community pharmacies in England and Wales jumped 31.4 million to reach 745 million for the year, while the number of medicines use reviews conducted more than tripled to 579,965 in their second year of existence.