Patients should be able to make complaints to the health service ombudsman about NHS services via email or telephone, the Law Commission has proposed.

The commission has today launched a consultation intended to make it easier for patients to complain about the NHS or other public services in England and Wales.

It said the way public services ombudsmen work now is “often outdated and inconsistent”, with complaints having to be submitted in writing and in some cases only through an MP.

The commission has also proposed changes to help keep more complaints from resulting in a court case.

Under the present rules the ombudsman should not deal with a complaint after court proceedings have begun, even if the complainant was badly advised to go to court. In future, the commission has said it would like courts to transfer appropriate cases to the ombudsman.

Frances Patterson QC, the law commissioner leading on the project, said: “By improving access to these ombudsmen, we can reduce the burden that falls on the citizen, public bodies and the courts, and realise savings for citizens and government.”

The consultation focuses on five statutory ombudsmen, including the health service ombudsman. The consultation will close on 3 December.

The NHS Information Centre said last week the number of written complaints about services had risen by more than 13 per cent in a year - the biggest increase since the information was first published 12 years ago.

In total 101,077 complaints were made between April 2009 and March 2010, compared with 89,139 during the same period the previous year.