The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said patients recognising the pressure on health services during the Covid-19 crisis has likely been a major factor in a fall in NHS complaints across England.
NHS England figures show Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust received 250 written complaints in 2020-21.
This was down from 372 the year before, and fewer than the 384 received in 2018-19.
Grace Worsley, SFH patient experience manager, said: “We welcome and encourage comments and feedback from patients and their families, as it helps us to recognise examples of high quality care and also to improve and learn lessons when care could have been better.
“During the pandemic, we did notice a drop in complaints, which we attributed to the amazing work of our colleagues across the NHS and the general good feeling towards the NHS during this time.”
Hospital and community health services across England received 83,899 complaints in 2020-21 – a decrease of 26 per cent from 2019-20.
However, NHS England announced an optional pause to the complaints process between March and June 2020 which may have affected the number received.
But Ms Worsley said: “At SFH we didn’t pause complaints, we just advised we would be unable to provide a timescale with regards to a response in both April 2020 and January 2022.
“We always strive to respond to complaints as quickly as possible.”
Rob Behrens, health service ombudsman responsible for investigating complaints about the NHS in England, said it is hard to know exactly why numbers have dropped, but the pandemic has likely been a ‘major factor’.
He said: “People recognise the NHS is under pressure and might be holding back, but I encourage anyone who believes they have suffered an injustice to come forward.”
Communications – such as how decisions are explained or whether treatment implications are made clear enough – was the most common reason for complaint nationally, though this was not the case at SFH.
Instead, the most-complained about issue was patient care including nutrition hydration – 50 per cent of all those where a subject area was listed.
This was followed by communications, at 16 per cent, and admissions discharge and transfers, at 15 per cent.