The key priority of the NSW public health system is its focus on patient-centred care. Feedback from consumers, their families, and carers about their health care experiences is encouraged and is a valuable resource for monitoring and improving patient safety. Analysing data on patient experiences improves the ability of health care organisations to detect system-wide problems in care.

Encouraging staff to work together with patients and families when providing care improves communication and results in a better experience of care. The CEC's Person Centred Care program was established to work with local health districts to help include patients and family as care team members, improve consumer engagement, and promote safety and quality in health care.

All complaints received are entered into the Incident Information Management System (IIMS) and this practice will continue with the new system, ims+, which is currently being implemented across NSW. Complaints management within ims+ has been broadened to enable the notification of complaints, compliments, and observations/suggestions provided by patients and carers.

Due to the differences that exist between the IIMS and ims+ systems with regards to the classification of complaints and their resolution, complaints data in this report has been combined to include ims+ at a high level analysis only.

The number of consumer complaints across January – June 2020 has decreased by 12 per cent compared with the preceding six-month period. When reviewing clinical incidents and complaint notifications against occasions of service, the proportion of both clinical incidents and complaints also decreased during January – June 2020 (Figure 9).

It is important to note that the COVID-19 outbreak occurred during this reporting period and was declared a pandemic in March 2020. During the months of March and April, NSW public hospitals suspended all non-urgent elective surgery to effectively care for patients with COVID-19, and to preserve resources including personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. In May 2020, a staged approach was implemented to restore elective surgery and other hospital activity. The reduction in hospital activity is reflected in the graph below.

Figure 9: Notification of clinical incidents and complaints by NSW separations, July 2016 – June 2020

Figure 9

Complaints notified within IIMS are risk rated against a SAC score, which guides the level of investigation required to ensure the cause of the complaint is identified and that appropriate action can be taken to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. Complaints notified in ims+ are not risk rated using a SAC/Harm Score, and therefore appear in the total only (Table 16).

During the reporting period most complaints were categorised as a SAC3 or SAC4 severity rating. Less than one per cent of complaints notified in IIMS were classified as a SAC1 or SAC2 incident. A small proportion of complaints received were not assigned a SAC score.

Table 16: Complaints by SAC rating, July 2016 – June 2020

Complaint SAC Rating 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Jul-Dec Jan-Jun Jul-Dec Jan-Jun Jul-Dec Jan-Jun Jul-Dec* Jan-Jun
SAC 1 7 5 13 5 2 2 3 7
SAC 2 55 49 64 64 60 48 41 41
SAC 3 1,822 1,676 1,874 1,995 1,967 2,492 2,065 1,343
SAC 4 5,404 5,375 5,517 6,063 5,943 6,431 5,989 4,214
No SAC allocated 54 85 120 84 97 123 57 36
Total 7,342 7,190 7,588 8,211 8,069 9,096 8,494 7,491

Caveats: Data by SAC score obtained from IIMS. Excludes St Vincent's Health Network
*ims+ data included in total for July 2019 – December 2019