Complaints about care

Most people in Scotland experience high-quality care, but investigating complaints can help improve things when they aren’t good enough, the Care Inspectorate said today.

The message comes as figures show the number of complaints about care services in Scotland has decreased, although the Care Inspectorate, the body charged with investigating and upholding complaints about social care, received more than 4,000 in the past year. However, at the same time, the overall quality of social care generally remained high.

Where people feel the quality of social care is not sufficiently good, they can ask the Care Inspectorate to look at an issue. In some cases, inspectors help resolve problems simply and quickly but can also launch more formal investigations where necessary.

The report published today examines trends in complaints received and investigated in the past three years. In 2016/17, inspectors investigated 1,662 complaints of which 57% were upheld. The majority of complaints were from friends, relatives and visitors of people experiencing care, but around one fifth were whistleblowing complaints from care service employees. The most common area of complaint was about people's general health and welfare or a specific healthcare concern, followed by concerns about staff and communications.

The rate of complaints upheld varies by service type, with complaints about combined care at home and housing support services upheld in 73% of cases and complaints about care home services upheld in 58% of cases. Less than half (48%) of complaints investigated about daycare of children services were upheld, and 42% of complaints investigated about childminders were upheld.

Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said: “Unannounced inspections show that for most people care is good or better, with many services delivering high-quality, compassionate care. However, where things are not as good as they should be, people have a right to have their concerns considered carefully.

“Listening to and responding to the concerns of people experiencing care, and their loved ones, is a powerful way of improving the quality of care for everyone.

“If people are worried about care, we encourage them to speak to the manager of their service and try to resolve matters locally first. If that isn’t possible or appropriate, anyone can contact the Care Inspectorate.

“Many concerns can be resolved simply, but some require more formal investigation. Where we uphold a complaint we always work closely with care services to ensure they improve – it is a hugely important part of our work in supporting people to experience high-quality care that meets their needs, rights and choices.

“Anyone with a concern about a care service can contact us on 0345 600 9527.”

The report is available here:

The Care Inspectorate is responsible for registering and inspecting more than 13,500 care services across Scotland, including childminders, care homes for older people and a wide range of other services.

In 2016/17, the Care Inspectorate received 4,277 complaints about care services.

Over the last three years, an average of 356 complaints were received per month.

A public awareness campaign in 2014 saw a sharp increase in the volume of complaints received that year, and although we received a lower volume in the two subsequent years, the levels of complaints we received remained higher than the pre-2014 levels.

The fluctuation and long-term rise in the number of complaints received is not an indicator that quality of care is in decline: comparing 2014/15 to 2016/17, the percentage of services graded good, very good or excellent in all quality themes has remained fairly constant at 87% and 88% respectively.

In 2016/17, we formally registered 1,694 complaints. Over the past three years, the overall trend has been a decreasing one, with an overall decrease of 16% compared to 2014/15 (a decrease of around 28 complaints registered per month). This corresponds with an increase in the number of complaints that were resolved quickly to the complainant’s and Care Inspectorate’s satisfaction by frontline resolution without the need for a formal investigation.

We resolved 170 more complaints by frontline resolution, without the need for a formal investigation, in 2016/17 compared to 2015/16.

Once we have investigated a complaint, and we either uphold or do not uphold it, we describe the complaint as being completed, although further regulatory action may follow.

We completed 1,662 complaint investigations in 2016/17. Overall, the number of complaints completed has decreased by 17% since 2014/15.