NHS 'defensive' over complaints

The NHS needs to abandon a culture of "defensiveness" when dealing with patient complaints, the service's ombudsman has warned. Dame Julie Mellor said there was a "toxic cocktail of reluctance by patients to complain and defensiveness by hospitals."

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NHS complaint problems 'have been going on for years'

Dame Julie Mellor of the NHS Ombudsman has said that as patients are reluctant to make complaints and are then often met with a defensive attitude the situation is forming a "toxic cocktail."

Dame Julie said that although similar problems have been reported recently her own research spanned years and found the problems were long-standing.

She told ITV News: "I'm not commenting on recent weeks or months, we've been looked at a period of years what's been happening."

DoH: Issues with how hospitals handle complaints

The Department of Health said it is aware there are issues surrounding complaints in the NHS, which is why it has commissioned reports on the systems.

It is in the interests of everyone who cares about the NHS - from patients, to doctors and nurses - that patients can trust that, when they make a complaint, it is dealt with correctly and thoroughly.

We know that there are issues with how hospitals handle complaints and that's why we asked Ann Clwyd and Tricia Hart to carry out a review into the system.

We look forward to their recommendations.

– Department of Health spokesperson

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NHS complaints system 'dated and difficult'

New research involving patients, carers and staff found many felt the NHS complaints system was dated and difficult to navigate.

Staff also said complaints procedures between different hospitals were confusing and there was a need for more training on responding to complaints.

Changes would include:

  • Access to a free patients' advice service 24 hours a day
  • Each patient given the name of a senior person - usually the ward sister - as the first contact for concerns

NHS complaints are 'going unheard'

Dame Julie Mellor of the NHS Ombudsman has warned that the health service needs to change its attitude towards complaints.

There has been much said about what is wrong since Mid Staffs.

But, we have now identified what can be done to make things better.

The strong message was the need for a step change in the culture from defensiveness to welcoming and seeking feedback, including concerns and complaints, to deliver continuous improvement and the best possible patient care.

The key themes that come up again and again - those of openness, leadership and culture change - all start with the board and end at the point of delivery on the ward.

There is a toxic cocktail of reluctance by patients to complain and defensiveness by hospitals in handling complaints.

This means concerns and complaints are going unheard or unaddressed.

– Dame Julie Mellor

NHS complaints culture is a 'defensive toxic cocktail'

The NHS needs to abandon a culture of "defensiveness" when dealing with patient complaints, the NHS Ombudsman has warned.

Dame Julie Mellor said there is a "toxic cocktail of reluctance by patients to complain and defensiveness by hospitals in handling complaints" - and called for a step change in how the NHS reacts.

NHS complaints culture is 'toxic cocktail of defensiveness' Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The calls echo those of Labour MP Ann Clwyd who is preparing a report for the Prime Minister. Earlier this month Mrs Clwyd said that "a complete overhaul" of the complaints system was needed.

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