There were 208,400 written complaints received by the NHS during 2016/172 – up 4.9% on the previous year, new NHS Digital figures reveal.

The figures mean on average 571 written complaints were made every day.

The report, entitled Data on Written Complaints in the NHS, 2016/17, shows numbers of complaints about both primary and secondary care.

It shows a 9.7% increase in written complaints to GP and dental practices4 compared with the previous year. In 2016/17, there were 90,600 primary care complaints, up from 82,600 in 2015/16.

Around half (49.8%) of the resolved complaints made to primary care providers were upheld; 37.5% were fully upheld, 12.4% were partially upheld and 50.2% were not upheld.

Of the total number of primary care complaints involving a service area, 83.2% related to GP surgeries, while 14.6% related to dental practices.

The report shows there was a 1.4% year-on-year increase in secondary care complaints with 117,800 complaints received in 2016/17, up from 116,200 in 2015/1611, but a smaller proportion of resolved secondary care complaints were fully upheld than the previous year.

In 2016/17, 35.8 per cent (40,100) of secondary care complaints were fully upheld, compared with 38.5% (39,800) in 2015/16. The number of complaints partially upheld increased from 26.4% (27,300) in 2015/16 to 28.9% (32,300) in 2016/17.

Further analysis of the report shows:

The areas with the highest overall percentage increases in all written complaints were:

  • Lancashire, which had 5,300 complaints compared with 4,600 the previous year – a 14.6% increase
  • The West Midlands, which had 14,400 complaints compared with 13,000 the previous year – an 11.1% increase
  • The North Midlands, which had 12,100 complaints compared with 11,100 the previous year – an 8.8% increase, and
  • Yorkshire and Humber, which had 21,400 complaints compared with 19,700 the previous year – an 8.6% increase.

The total number of complaints fell in:

  • The South Central region, which had 11,500 complaints compared with 12,200 the previous year - down 6.2%
  • The South West region, which had 11,700 complaints compared with 11,900 the previous year - down 1.8%, and
  • Cumbria and the North East, which had 9,700 complaints compared with 9,800 the previous year - down 0.6%.

A single written complaint can cover multiple subjects, service areas, and professions. This means the total number of written complaints involving a subject, service, or profession could be greater than the total number of written complaints.