THE number of written complaints made to East Lancashire’s hospitals reached almost 500 last year.

New figures show patient complaints about the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General were up eight per cent on the previous year, with another 40 letters received by bosses.

Nationally, complaints to health authorities increased by about two per cent, but some organisations, including Keighley- based Airedale NHS Foundation Trust reported a reduction.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust was subjected to wide-ranging criticisms by NHS chief Sir Bruce Keogh in July, and is currently in special measures. One failure centred around its complaints process which, the inspectors, said ‘lacked compassion’.

Russ McLean, of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “Unfortunately, I have become aware of an increasing number of complaints about our hospitals. But I think patients are more savvy these days and take a more active interest in those that provide healthcare.

“In fact, if something’s not right, you have a duty to complain because you’re making it better for those who come after you.”

The figures, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, showed a big rise in complaints to North West Ambulance Service (24per cent), with 474 received last year, while Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust reported a reduction of 6per cent to 321.

Hospital doctors and surgeons attracted almost half of the complaints nationally, with nurses, midwives and health visitors accounting for 22per cent.

Mark Brearley, chief executive of ELHT, said: “We are taking steps to ensure that the complaints procedure is improved so that it is more personal, with an emphasis on meeting complainants earlier and face- to-face.

“Our rate of complaints as reported in the Quality Account is four per 10,000 contacts. Although our activity levels within the trust have increased, the proportion of complaints to activity remains fairly constant. We receive far more compliments from our patients than complaints.”