Patients' complaints at a large psychiatric hospital: can they lead to better patient services?

Int J Health Care Qual Assur. 2010;23(4):400-9. doi: 10.1108/09526861011037452.


Purpose: Little is known about complaints made by psychiatric patients. The aim of this study is to analyse complaints made by, or behalf of, inpatients at a large independent psychiatric hospital.

Design/methodology/approach: The hospital's complaints register was used to identify and study complaints made during 2006. A descriptive analysis was performed.

Findings: Of the 392 complaints, 39 per cent related to staff behaviour, 26 per cent to clinical matters, 18 per cent to the behaviour of other patients and the remaining 16 per cent to the physical environment and facilities. Action as a result of complaints was mainly taken at unit level but in 9 per cent of cases organisation-wide improvements were made, for example to enrich patient treatment programmes, rectify staff shortages and improve the quality of meals.

Research limitations/implications: The study took place in a specialist hospital and so the findings cannot be generalised to the wider NHS. Important differences exist between complaints made in psychiatric as opposed to general hospital settings.

Practical implications: Complaints are a valuable source of organisational learning for mental health services.

Originality/value: Given the paucity of literature on complaints in psychiatry, this study describes some in detail the nature of patients' complaints and one organisation's actions to improve patient services as a result of these complaints.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Personnel, Hospital
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Sex Factors
  • State Medicine
  • United Kingdom