Thousands of North East patients have made written complaints about NHS hospitals and community health services.
A report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed there were 3,742 complaints in the region between April last year and March this year.
Today health unions have criticised Government cutbacks as they claim patient care is suffering, with Unison saying ministers have “dangerously squeezed the NHS and demanded ‘efficiency savings’ which are cuts in all but name.”
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust had the highest number of written complaints at 721, closely followed by Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation at 702, and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust at 547.
A spokesperson for City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust in the last year has seen an increase in the number of complaints it receives which is still relatively small to the volume of activity/patient contacts that are undertaken - less than 1%.
“We actively encourage feedback and complaints so that we can learn from our mistakes, improve practice but more importantly initiate changes to ensure patients receive a better experience.”
The figures cover complaints made about NHS hospitals, community health services and family health services, such as GP and dental practices.
In the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear area team, 9.90% of the complaints were about appointments delay or cancellation, 9.86% were about staff attitude, 8.52% were about communication, 0.87% about privacy and dignity and 0.45% related to discrimination.
Sir Leonard Fenwick, chief executive of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “The incidence of grievances must be viewed in the context that our trust is one of the largest NHS organisations in England.
“Newcastle Hospitals and its range of outreach services during 2013/14 engaged with l,632,681 patients, thereby reflecting a ‘dissatisfaction concern’ incidence of 0.04% in the care and treatment provided. However, it must be said that we constantly recognise that we can always do better.”
Nationally, the highest increase in complaints across professions was for ambulance crews, which was 28.5% higher in 2013-14 than in 2012-13.
The North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust had 444 written complaints about its care - among the highest for ambulance trusts in the country.
A spokesperson said: “We have made significant improvements to develop a robust system for people to make complaints or give compliments about North East Ambulance Service. We value the feedback of our patients because it helps us to shape and improve the service for the future.
“In an independent survey earlier this year, between 93% and 95% of all patients surveyed said that they would highly recommend North East Ambulance Service to their friends and family.”
Duncan Rothwell, North East regional organiser at Unison, said health services had been squeezed by cuts.
“The Conservative-led government has dangerously squeezed the NHS and demanded ‘efficiency savings’ which are cuts in all but name,” he said.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We welcome the fact that more people have felt able to raise their concerns with hospital trusts, as listening to patients is one of the best ways to improve standards and this has been a priority in the wake of the appalling events at Mid Staffs.
“We want a culture of openness in all our hospitals, where it’s made clear to patients, their families and carers how to complain.
“The CQC will also be looking at how hospitals handle and learn from complaints as part of their tough new inspection process and we will soon publish a clear and simple guide to making a complaint for patients and their families.”