Patient care: Whanganui records lowest ever rate of complaints


6 June 2019


An emphasis on a pro-active approach to complaints by Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) has resulted in its lowest ever rate of complaints made to the Health & Disability Commissioner.


In national data released by the Commissioner, Anthony Hill, this week, WDHB had just two complaints in the six months from July to December 2018.


That was the lowest figure in the country along with Taranaki DHB, also at two.


The Commissioner has assessed the number of complaints against the number of patients discharged and Whanganui leads the way nationally with just 28.86 complaints for every 100,000 discharges.


“This is the lowest rate of complaints ever received about Whanganui DHB,” Mr Hill said.


In contrast, Wairarapa DHB had 203.21 complaints for every 100,000 patients discharged.


Over the six-month period, the Commissioner received 444 complaints across the 20 DHBs with a national average of 89.38 complaints per 100,000 discharges.


WDHB chief executive Russell Simpson described the Commissioner’s report as “very positive” and was delighted with the work of staff in general and with the patient safety and quality unit in particular.


“It is important to acknowledge the efforts of our staff and our pro-active approach to complaints management.”


One of the Whanganui complaints was about lack of access to mental health services, and the other concerned inadequate follow-up after surgery. Both complaints were resolved.


Across New Zealand, the number of complaints to the Commissioner has increased by 40 per cent over the past five years.


However, Mr Hill said there was no evidence that the increase related to a decrease in the quality of services by DHBs or other providers.


“The growth in complaint numbers is more likely due to the increasing profile of HDC, the improved accessibility of complaints processes due to advancing technology, and an increasing public knowledge of consumer rights.


“It may also reflect an increased willingness among consumers to complain about services received and increasing health care service activity.”


He said his figures were consistent with a trend observed by other complaints agencies both within New Zealand and internationally.


“Every complaint is an opportunity to learn,” he added.