Introduction: Complaints are used by healthcare organisations to monitor the quality of clinical practice. Although stressful for staff involved, they can motivate change and improve care standards. The elderly represent a major section of healthcare users; however, there is little published data about complaints regarding their hospital care. We, therefore, reviewed our Trust complaints to examine what proportion specifically related to elderly patients, and to determine the main findings from these complaints.
Methods: Retrospective review of all formal complaints registered in the Medical and Surgical Directorates over 12 months noting age, their source, the key issues raised and method of resolution.
Results: A total of 184 complaints were lodged, of which 47% related to patients >65 years. This proportion was higher in medicine (56%) than in surgery (37%). Of the elderly cases, 75% complained regarding more than one problem, and 66% were communicated by external parties. The allegations raised related to poor communication (30%), medical treatment (28%), nursing care (21%), professionalism (11%), environmental issues (9%) and others in 1%. Of complaints regarding medical treatment, the most frequent issues related to delayed procedures, missed fractures and medication errors. Resolution was achieved in writing in 83% and by reconciliation meeting in 14%. Only 1% of cases proceeded to litigation.
Conclusions: Most complaints regarding elderly patients involved several issues and the majority were made by external parties on their behalf. Almost all achieved resolution. Complaints regarding medical care may highlight safety issues that need addressing. Staff education about areas such as communication failure and professionalism may reduce the burden of complaints and improve standards of healthcare among elderly patients.