Tuesday, June 16, 1998 Published at 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Health: Latest News
Nurse complaints reach record levels
Nurses claim patients are now more likely to complain
A record number of misconduct complaints were brought before the nurses' and midwives' professional body last year.
They resulted in 84 nurses and other practitioners being struck off - in a third of cases for physical and verbal abuse of patients.
The figures follow a huge increase in complaints against GPs, and suggest that the public is far less likely to suffer in silence if they feel they have been badly treated by the NHS.
The United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC) considered complaints about 997 practitioners in the year ending March 31.
This was 6% higher than the previous year and the highest total since the UKCC took responsibility for investigating complaints in 1993.
Other reasons for striking off included: failure to attend to basic needs (13%), and unsafe clinical practice (7%).
Practitioners were struck off in 80% of cases where professional misconduct was proved, while 17% received a caution.
The figures echoed a similar trend in a Medical Defence Union survey of family doctors yesterday which showed complaints against GPs had more than doubled over the past two years.
The dramatic rise followed the introduction of a new complaints procedure in April 1996. Between April and December, 1996, there were 557 complaints against GPs in Britain while during the same period in 1997 the number soared to 1,194.
Mandie Lavin, UKCC director of professional conduct, said: "We are seeing more and more complaints from employers, health professionals, members of the public and the courts.
"This does not necessarily mean that today's nurses, midwives and health visitors are a greater risk to the public than previous generations.
"It reflects a better awareness of the UKCC's public protection role, the importance of reporting complaints, and a more effective system of referrals from the courts. It also reflects greater confidence in the UKCC's procedures."
Joyce Robins, of the Patient's Association, said: "We should be very concerned that incidents involving nurses happen at all, but I am very surprised at the numbers."
Ms Robins said part of the problem could be the push to move people out of hospitals and into the community, where there are concerns about quality of care.