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  1. ITV Report

NHS trusts 'failing to deal with serious complaints'

NHS trusts 'failing to deal with serious complaints' Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

The Health Ombudsman has accused NHS trusts of failing to deal with serious complaints properly.

Too many, often bereaved relatives, are left with no other choice but to take their issues to the ombudsman because trusts fail to deal with them locally, it said.

Today a report containing investigations dealt with in October and Novermber last year showcases the wide range of cases the Ombudsman service investigates about the NHS in England and other government departments.

One case a family who had no choice but to place a vulnerable man with dementia in private care over Christmas, after he was unsafely discharged from A&E on Christmas Day.

NHS trusts 'failing to deal with serious complaints' Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

One hospital trust gave no assurance that errors that led to a patient with dementia being left on a trolley in A&E for more than 33 hours followed by an assessment unit for 42 hours would not happen again.

Other investigations looked at how East of England Ambulance Service paramedics left a frail woman in her 80s home alone without adequate support although she was suffering with sickness and diarrhoea and had soiled herself, and into how a man with dementia died soon after being unsafely discharged from A&E on Christmas Day.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Another hospital trust breached cancer waiting times. University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust paid a patient £5,000 in recognition of the money he spent on private treatment because of its delays.

Around 80% of the ombudsman's investigations are about the NHS in England. During this two-month period it upheld two out of five (41%) of the complaints it received.

These cases show the impact that service failure can have on individuals and their loved ones.

These case studies - which are a snapshot of our work - show the wide range of unresolved complaints we look at, many of which should be resolved by the organisations locally, without people having to refer the complaint to us.

Good complaint handling has to start from the top, and leaders will recognise the valuable opportunities complaints provide to really improve the service they are delivering.

Many people complain about public services to enable lessons to be learnt because they don't want the same thing to happen to somebody else.

– Julie Mellor, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Most of its NHS investigations were about hospital trusts, followed by GP practices and then mental health trusts.

Another family complained after they were left for five hours behind a curtain separating them from where their mother was being treated, hearing her have several cardiac arrests as well as being mocked by nursing staff at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

After her death they were told they could see her, but had to wait another 45 minutes behind the curtain until they decided to take matters into their own hands and go into the cubicle.

The ombudsman service's investigation found that there were failings in how staff communicated with the patient's children and how they treated them and that the trust's complaint handling fell short of the expected standards.