Only one in three people who are unhappy with their NHS care or with other publics services actually complain, according to a survey conducted by the ombudsman.
The research found that while 90 per cent believe that people who think they have had a poor service should complain, in practice, far fewer actually do.
Reasons for not complaining included fears that it would be more hassle than it was worth, not knowing who to turn to, and concerns that the complaint would not be taken seriously.
However, the most common reason not to complain was that people doubt it will make a difference.
The findings, from a survey of 4,623 people conducted by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), are echoed by a second report, from patient advocacy group Healthwatch England, which found that only 21 per cent of NHS patients who have a poor care experience write a letter of complaint.
Because the NHS only formally records and reports on the written complaints it receives, Healthwatch England said that the 174,872 complaints reported last year may be a significant underestimate.
If the figure truly represents only 21 per cent of the complaints that might be made, the actual number of incidents of poor care may be as high as 657,851 a year, the group said.
Reform of the complaints process for the NHS and other public services was outlined in last month’s Queen’s Speech. The Government plans to create a single Public Service Ombudsman covering all public services for England and all UK services which are not devolved.
Anna Bradley, chair of Healthwatch England, said that the group estimated 2,000 incidents of poor care were occurring every day across the country’s health and social care system.
“On Monday we will be writing to [Health Secretary] Jeremy Hunt on behalf of the thousands of patients we have spoken to and the many hundreds of thousands whose concerns have fallen into a black hole, outlining how we can use the draft bill to fix the complaints system once and for all,” she said.Reuse content