Objective: to determine the number, instigators, nature and outcome of comp
laints concerning elderly patients treated at a single hospital over 1 year
Design: descriptive analysis of computerized data gathered prospectively; f
ollow-up of complaints until resolution.
Setting: large, urban, university teaching hospital in Australia.
Subjects: all patients aged 65 years and above whose hospital care was the
subject of complaint.
Methods: analysis of computerized database of all complaints made in a sing
Results: 1.44 complaints were made per 1000 occasions of sen ice to elderly
people (95% confidence intervals, 1.19 - 1.69). This was similar to the ov
erall complaint rate of 1.32 per 1000 occasions of service for patients of
ail age groups (95% confidence intervals, 1.19-1.45). However, 73% of compl
aints were made by advocates rather than by elderly patients themselves and
96% related to communication or treatment issues. Many complaints resulted
in an explanation and/or an apology and, to date, none has resulted in lit
Conclusions: complaints concerning older hospitalized people are as common
as those concerning younger patients. Analysis of complaints provides point
ers for improvements in quality of care.