About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland provides information on the total number of complaints received by NHSScotland organisations from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.

Main points

  • There was a 23% decrease in the total number of NHSScotland complaints received in 2020/21 (24,905) compared to the previous year.
  • NHS Board complaints decreased by 29% to 17,333, while NHS Primary Care Service Contractors complaints reduced by 5% to 7572. Independent GP Practice contractor complaints increased by 14% to 5326.
  • The total number of complaints that were closed in 2020/21 by NHS Boards went down by 31% (15,963). This does not include contractor data, withdrawn cases or cases where consent was not received.
  • Stage one (early resolution) complaints closed (7945) accounted for 50% of overall complaints closed. No change on the previous year.
  • Stage two (investigation) complaints closed (6363) accounted for 40% of overall complaints closed, an increase of 1% on the previous year.
  • The number of stage two escalated complaints closed (1655) (those unable to be resolved at stage one) accounted for 10% of overall complaints, a decrease of 1% on the previous year.
  • 27% of complaints were upheld at stage one, compared to 32% the previous year.
  • 25% of non-escalated complaints were upheld at stage two, compared to 32% the previous year. Whereas 28% of escalated complaints were upheld at stage two, compared to 33% the previous year.
  • Within their agreed timescales, 78% of stage one complaints were closed on time (decrease of 2%), 63% of stage two complaints were closed on time (increase of 9%) and 45% of stage two escalated complaints were closed on time (no change).


This report provides information on NHSScotland complaints received about hospital and community health services, family health services, special boards and national and support organisations.

It includes the number of complaints received; the time taken to deal with complaints; issues raised; actions taken; service areas and staff groups who were the subject of complaints and the outcome of complaints, though this varies between the NHS Boards

From 2019/20 onwards, Public Health Scotland produce an annual short statistical release and links to all NHS Board complaints reports. Users will be consulted on the format and content of future releases.

The number of complaints and associated data trends may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as many NHS services were paused throughout this time period.

Our complaints process provides two opportunities to resolve (close) complaints internally: Early resolution, and Investigation. More details are found in The NHS Model Complaints Handling Procedure (external website).

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.statsgov@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
Was this page helpful?