Hospital issues were the most common subjects raised by members of the public with Scottish government ministers, according to details of correspondence.

More than 400 letters related to hospital services and a further 154 outlined complaints between July last year and June of this year. NHS car parking charges were covered in 137 letters.

The details emerged in tables requested by the Liberal Democrats showing the top subjects raised with first minister Alex Salmond and each of his cabinet secretaries.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon’s top issue covered complaints about hospitals in Glasgow and the Western Isles.

The government said the details were over and above correspondence received in consultation exercises or as part of organised campaigns.

Health issues trailed behind the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. However, they moved four times as many people to words as school closures and the SNP’s touchstone issue of independence managed respectively and nearly twice as many as planning issues did.

Paul Hodgkin, chief executive of Patient Opinion commented:

“The health service ombudsman plays a vital role in helping to develop and improve health services, and has flagged an important issue in its recent study. However, the ombudsman has its limitations and only deals with around 5% of the complaints which are referred to it. As a result, whilst the serious issues are dealt with, many issues of patient care cannot be addressed at this level.

“Yet, patient care, which includes every aspect of a service from the attitudes of nursing staff to the cleanliness of the ward, is central to the experience of a patient and gaining their satisfaction of a service.

“It is clear that, whilst the ombudsman has its place, the NHS must have other means of engaging patients and understanding all their concerns. Using websites and online forums enable more issues to be addressed quickly and provides a channel for feedback that openly shows patients that the NHS really is listening.”