Complaints about Northern NSW hospitals rise 34%

ONE out of every 20 complaints about NSW hospitals comes from the Northern NSW Local Health District, with numbers increasing by more than a third in 2014-15.

The Health Care Complaints Commission dealt with 5266 grievances across the state last financial year.

Only 868 were about public hospitals, with the northern district pulling in 46 of its own.

Complaints about hospitals rose by 34% in the NNSWLHD catchment.

This was two and a half times the rise across the state as a whole where it was 14%.

For all health care providers, from hospitals to dentists and psychologists, complaint numbers shot up 10.5% last financial year.

The commission's 2014-15 annual report revealed the three biggest issues were treatment (39.4%), communication (16.5%) and unprofessional conduct (14.2%).

Individual health practitioners were the subject of 3445 complaints over the 12 months, an 11.3% spike on 2013-14.

Complaints against nurses and midwives were up 5% on last year to 500 complaints, and 34% more than in 2012-13 - a surge the commission attributed to new mandatory reporting rules.

Patients complained about dentists 345 times compared to 361 the previous year, pharmacists received 211 complaints and psychologists pulled in 149.

Acting Commissioner Karen Mobbs said an early resolution project had been executed in an effort to reduce the number of complaints that never passed the assessment stage.

"Officers employed a variety of techniques to achieve a successful resolution of the complaint and as a result, the number of complaints resolved during assessment more than doubled from 262 complaints to 662," she said.

"The rate of complaints discontinued dropped from 52.4% of complaints to 46.7% during the trial period.

"As a result the initiative will be continued."