The widow on a mission to give patients a say in the NHS

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Ann Clwyd is leading a task force to look into how patient feedback is handled in the NHS
Ann Clwyd is leading a task force to look into how patient feedback is handled in the NHS Photo: ITV News

Ann Clywd is a widow on a mission, determined that lessons should be learnt from the death of her husband in hospital six months ago.

"Something good must come out of Owens's death," she told me, speaking of the man who was by her side for half a century and who died last year after catching pneumonia in hospital.

Shocked by what she saw of his hospital treatment, she has spoken out about standards of NHS care, and has been overwhelmed by the public response.

She has now been asked by the government to head a task force investigating patient concerns in England.

"Some of the stories are so awful, so tragic, they actually defy belief," she told me.

"But I'm being told these things are happening now - in our NHS. Something has gone tragically wrong," she added.

Ann Clywd on her first fact-finding visit to a hospital
Ann Clywd on her first fact-finding visit to a hospital Credit: ITV News

Ann Clywd is a Labour MP who was part of the original Royal Commission into the NHS alongside Nye Bevin's sister.

She has received more than 2,000 emails and letters in just a few weeks and more come every day. It is one of the biggest single issue post bags an MP has ever received.

Today I am joining her on her on a visit to a hospital - her first fact-finding trip to the NHS frontline. As she travels, she is reading yet another email from a woman whose husband died in hospital from infected bedsores.

She is upset by it but draws strength from it: "This is what I want to put right. I will be making recommendations to help stop this type of thing happening."

Ann's husband Owen Roberts
Ann's husband Owen Roberts

It has taken the widow who has written to her four years and seven separate complaint procedures to find out how her husband died. Ann believes the nursing team involved will most likely still be practicing.

The story resonates with Ann because of her own personal grief:

"It is how the complaints procedures work - or fail to work - that I want to find out," she says.

The latest initiative for channelling complaints - called Healthwatch - has been billed as the "consumer champion" for health and social care in England.

Ann's team is concerned that with all the current changes in the NHS, it may not be able to deliver much-needed change.

It is the fourth attempt to engage the views of patients and their families in the NHS.

Community Health Councils (CHCs) were the first, followed by two shortlived successor arrangements - Patient and Public Involvement Forums (PPIFs) from 2002 to 2008, and Local Involvement Networks (LINks) from 2008.

The patient tragedies at Stafford Hospital are reminders of the critical importance of patient and public involvement in the care system - and of what can happen when the voices of patients and family carers are not heard.

Ann Clwyd is determined to let their voices be heard.