A report published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that about seven million people who used NHS, private health or social care services in the past five years had concerns about their treatment but had never raised them.

Of these, over half (58%) expressed regret about not doing so.

The most common reasons for not raising a concern were:

  • not knowing how (20%) or who (33%) to raise it with
  • not wanting to be seen as a 'troublemaker' (33%)
  • worries about not being taken seriously (28%)
  • feeling that nothing would change as a result (37%).

However, when people did raise a concern or complaint, the majority (66%) found their issue was resolved quickly, it helped the service to improve and they were happy with the outcome.

CQC's research shows that patients and their carers often worried about being seen as troublemakers or feared that complaining would make matters worse. CQC has launched a ‘Declare Your Care’ campaign, encouraging people to share their experiences of care to help improve standards of care in England.

John Kell, Head of Policy at the Patients Association said:

“It’s sobering to read that millions of people who have had concerns about their care have chosen not to share their experiences, either because they did not know how to do so, or because they were worried that they would not be taken seriously. More than one in three people felt that nothing would change in the health service as a result of their intervention, and that is deeply worrying.

“We’re saddened but not surprised by the findings of this study – our helpline has heard for many years from people who have needed assistance with, at best, navigating a disjointed system – and at worst, battling it. Many people contact us seeking information on the complaints process, and patients are generally nervous that by speaking out their future care will suffer. That should not be the case in an NHS that is open to feedback and keen to improve based on patients’ experiences.

“It’s clear that substantial improvements are required in how the NHS treats patients when things have gone wrong. This means taking patients’ experiences seriously, taking full account of their experiences and making them an integral part of efforts to learn and improve. An NHS that is not truly open will always be an NHS that fails to learn and improve.

“These are important findings by the Care Quality Commission, and we fully support their new campaign urging patients and the public to share their experiences – good or bad – so that care can improve across the country.” 

Share your experiences

The partnership between the Patients Association and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) means we’re able to share information about the quality of care people experience in care settings. 

We can do this either anonymously or, if you'd like to chat with them about your care, then we can add your details.

If you would like one of our dedicated helpline advisers to relate your experiences to the CQC, then get in touch either by phone on 020 8423 8999.

Alternatively, you can share your story with the CQC directly and select 'the Patients Association' from the menu to share where you found this information. 

19 February 2019