Two-thirds of people who complain about NHS treatment on behalf of an older relative do not believe it will make a difference, a survey has revealed.
Almost a third of survey respondents also felt that hospital staff did not have adequate understanding of their relative’s condition or needs, according to the research by online network Gransnet and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
“Hospital staff need to be supported and enabled to communicate better with patients”
The findings sparked calls from those behind the survey for hospital staff to be better supported in communicating with patients and their relatives, especially about the local complaints procedure.
The survey asked around 600 Gransnet members about their experiences of complaining to the NHS on behalf of an older relative in hospital.
It found that, of those who were concerned about the treatment of their older relative, 58% complained. But 67% of those who complained do not believe complaining makes a difference.
The survey also found that 56% of the 602 participants disagreed with the statement that their complaints were listened to and taken seriously.
“NHS staff should make patients and their loved ones aware of how to complain”
Meanwhile, 35% of respondents said there were occasions where they were concerned about the care or treatment of their older relative in hospital, and 31% felt that the hospital staff did not have an adequate understanding of their older relative’s condition or care needs.
In addition, the survey also revealed wider concerns about communication with older patients and their families, said the ombudsman.
For example, 40% of participants did not feel they were kept informed about their older relative’s condition in hospital and were not given enough opportunities for discussion, and 33% felt they were not adequately involved in decisions about their older relative’s care and treatment.
In addition, the survey revealed that most complaints were made to clinicians. When asked who they complained to, 74% said a nurse and 33% a doctor.
Rob Behrens, parliamentary and health service ombudsman, said: “NHS staff should make patients and their loved ones aware of how to complain, point them to available support, and make it absolutely clear that their future care will not be compromised.”
Lara Crisp, editor of Gransnet, said: “It’s simply not acceptable that over half of people with a concern feel they can’t complain or that it won’t make any difference if they do.”
She added: “Hospital staff need to be supported and enabled to communicate better with patients so that everyone is clear about the complaints procedure.”
In 2016-17, the ombudsman service handled 31,444 complaints and investigated 4,239 cases.