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UK ambulance service complaints: a review of the literature

Mike Brady (College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, UK)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 7 August 2017



Complaints are an integral element of the quality control and clinical governance process of UK ambulance services, and form a valid and reliable way of identifying areas of practice that require improvement. The purpose of this paper is to assess to what extent such complaints and their possible causes are researched; to identify any possible areas of practice requiring further investigation.


A computerised literature search was conducted using the online databases Science Direct, Cochrane library, and Web of Science, as well as specific searches of the Journal of Paramedic Practice and the International Journal of Paramedic Practice database. Online databases were searched for peer-reviewed full research articles between January 2012 and May 2016.


A total of 125 papers were identified and after further screening 90 articles were excluded. Additional screening using the critical appraisal skills programme (2014) criterions excluded a further 21 papers, leaving 14 studies for inclusion within the review.


This review found no specific research focussing on any causes of complaints made to UK ambulance services. Moreover, no research was identified specifically investigating the top three cited themes of complaints made in the last three years. More research is required both in researching those themes of complaints already known but also determining any other possible causes of complaints made. This review has evidenced that studies investigating response times improvement strategies, ambulance staff attitudes, and educational assessments of errors, all have findings which are meaningful and valid to determining the possible causes of complaints and possible improvement strategies. Ambulance services, commissioners, practitioners, and clinical academics should endeavour to research and share causes of complaints made to improve the quality of patient care.



No conflict of interest declared.

No funding was provided for this study.


Brady, M. (2017), "UK ambulance service complaints: a review of the literature", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 104-121.



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