A culture of fear of litigation in the NHS has seen over half of complaints unfairly rejected and left patients and staff feeling ignored, according to a public service watchdog.
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) Jim Martin upheld more than half (56%) of the complaints he received about the NHS last year.
Some of the complaints he receives are "extremely distressing", he told Holyrood's Health and Sport Committee.
They include "horrific" bed sores, an elderly patient being treated in a gynaecology ward and persistent complaints about poor communication and attitudes of staff.
Some complaints where an error is plainly obvious, such as those that contain clear X-ray evidence, were only accepted by the NHS following investigation by the SPSO, he said.
One in six NHS staff feel bullied at work, with workers subjected to "petty" reprimands by managers, the committee also heard. Over half feel that their concerns are not listened to.
Mr Martin has called for greater use of "no-fault compensation" for patients and improved procedures for issuing apologies.
"We spend a lot of time talking about this but what we really need to start thinking about is what the hell we are going to do about it," he said.
"Since I came into this office (in 2009) it's been getting discussed, and before I came to this office my predecessor was raising issues. This problem is only going to get worse, not better, because there are going to be more older people and there are going to be greater expectations amongst the public.
"We are seeing repetition of incidents of failure to care adequately for people with pre-existing conditions in acute settings, and some of the cases that we see are extremely distressing. I heard about an elderly person who attended accident and emergency and ended up in a gynaecology ward."