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Publication, Part of

Data on Written Complaints in the NHS, 2020-21

National statistics

National Statistics

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Data on Written Complaints in the NHS, 2020-21

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This publication shows a count of written complaints made by (or on behalf of) patients, received between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021 in England. The two data collections are: i) KO41a – NHS Hospital and Community Health Service (HCHS) ii) KO41b – Primary Care (GP and Dental)

Key Facts

All NHS Written Complaints: (Hospital and Community Health Services and Primary Care)

  • The total number of all reported written complaints in 2020-21 was 170,013.
  • This was equivalent to 300.6 complaints per 100,000 head of population.
  • The proportion of complaints being fully upheld are 33.8% for primary care and 26.8% for HCHS.


Hospital and Community Health Services (HCHS)

  • The total number of all HCHS written complaints was 83,899 in 2020-21, a decrease of 29,342 (25.9%) from 2019-20.
  • There were 151,673 subject areas recorded against these 83,899 complaints.
  • Clinical treatment accounted for 40,854 (26.9%) of these.
  • The largest proportion of complaints received by individual subject area (including clinical treatment) was Communications with 18.0% followed by Patient Care including Nutrition / Hydration at 12.1% and then Values and Behaviour at 10.6%.
  • There were 121,876 recorded against the professionof the individual highlighted in the complaint. The largest proportion was attributed to medical staff with 39.9% then nursing staff at 25.5%.


Primary Care (GP and Dental)

  • The total number of primary care written complaints in 2020-21 was 86,114.
  • A third of all complaints (33.8%) were upheld in 2020-21. Almost half (49.6%) were not upheld with the remainder (16.6%) being partially upheld.
  • There were 94,160 subject areas1 recorded against all complaints, with 16.5% of these relating to Clinical Treatment, 13.5% relating to Communications and 12.4% relating to Staff Attitude/Behaviours/Values.

Of new complaints to:

  • GP practices - the most common causes for complaint are; Clinical Treatment (13.8%), Communications (13.7%) and Staff Attitude/Behaviour/Values (13.4%).
  • Dental practices - over a quarter relate to Clinical Treatment (26.4%), followed by Appointment Availability/Length (12.7%) and Communications (12.1%).
  • NHS England - over a third relate to Clinical Treatment (36.8%), followed by Communications (12.6%) and Care Planning (8.4%).


  • There were 87,196 Staff Groups1 recorded against all complaints with the largest proportion (36.0%) relating to Practitioners (GPs or Dentists) followed by Administrative staff (including Receptionists) with 25.8%.


1 A complaint can cover multiple Subject Areas, and Staff Groups.


Last edited: 30 March 2022 2:28 pm