There was an 18 per cent increase in the number of complaints made to the Nursing and Midwifery Council from 2007-08 to 2008-09.

The council received 2,178 new complaints against nurses and midwives between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009, 1,759 deemed to warrant investigation. That was an increase of 18 per cent from 1,487 complaints the previous year and the highest number of allegations the council has received since 2005.

The most common complaints related to dishonesty and lack of competence. The largest number of complaints were made by employers (47 per cent) followed by the police (23 per cent). The proportion of complaints from the public almost doubled in the two years, from just under 9 per cent to just under 17 per cent.

NMC director of fitness to practise Ian Todd said that could be due to rising expectations about standards of care.

“We live in a consumer society in which people are more willing to complain when they have received poor care,” he said.

News of the rise in complaints against nurses came as the NMC’s published accounts revealed its former chief executive Sarah Thewlis received almost £122,000 when her employment was terminated last year. She resigned after the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence criticised the working culture of the NMC.

HSJ and Nursing Times’s Dignity and Respect in Nursing conference is on 23 September.