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NHS 'must listen harder to complaints'

  • 5 Comments

The NHS needs to “listen harder” to patient complaints, according to a report.

When people criticise the way their care was handled, health trusts too often give a poor or incomplete explanation, it said.

The study, from the health service ombudsman Ann Abraham, examined 15,579 complaints made about the NHS in England in 2009/10.

The ombudsman is the “next step” for patients dissatisfied with the response they get from an NHS trust.

Overall, more complaints were received about hospital, specialist and teaching trusts than any other group (6,304 complaints, or 44% of the total).

The figures are not comparable with last year due to changes in the way complaints are assessed.

Some 17% of complaints received (2,419) were about GPs - the second most complained about group.

Overall, 63% of all complaints investigated and reported on by the ombudsman were upheld or partly upheld.

Of complaints about GPs, 56% were upheld or partly upheld, while 80% of 659 complaints about dentists were upheld or partly upheld.

Ms Abraham said: “Many of the lessons that can be learnt from complaints are straightforward and cost little or nothing to implement at local level: a commitment to apologising when things go wrong; clear and prompt explanations of what has happened; improved record keeping and better information for patients about how to complain.”

She said poor quality or inconsistent information about complaints “diminishes learning within the NHS and impedes access to choice for patients”.

Health minister Simon Burns said: “I welcome this report which highlights that the NHS needs to take patient complaints more seriously and manage them more efficiently locally, rather than simply relying on the health service ombudsman.

“Through our information revolution, which we are consulting on right now, we want to make sure patients have the information they need to help them make meaningful decisions about their care.

“Patient feedback and complaints are an important source of information - and the experience of other sectors clearly shows that strong user feedback can have a positive impact on services.”

  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • The NHS generally remains hostile and defensive towards complaints, displaying little willingness to learn. The main aim in responding to complaints is to defend the NHS' position, rather than apologising and learning for the future.

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  • it seems we are looking for perfect service where everybody does everything right all the time, everyone is polite and nobody ever complains. Unfortunately we are all human beings and such an organisatin does not exist, even at managerial level. Patients and their relatives have a right to complain about poor service and especially about dangerous practice and negligence, as do employees about difficulties in meeting the standards they are trained to provide or problems with their working conditions. All complaints must be taken extremely seriously and appropriate and immediate action taken to remedy the situation where patients are concerned or the health and safety of staff, then learn from them and move on. However, complaints must be justified and fair otherwise we live in constant fear of making an error which may result in unfair reprimand, further investigation and possible suspension from the professional regulatory body, with the risk of losing our jobs and even of litigation. The extra stress and pressure destroys a resptful, trustful and collegial working atmosphere which increases the risk of error significantly.

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  • Yeah well, we had a particularly nasty peice of work on our ward recently who was not only a vile racist woman,but even
    complained that the corn flakes weren't kellogs. Even when at the end my wits with the incessant bitchiness of her, I went and got the box and was then called a liar and told by her I must have got it from the staff room! Learn by them???? Sod them. And before you tell me I shouldn't be in nursing this sodding goverment has sorted that already! So you can go away and feel as smug as you like now can't you.

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  • The health service ombudsman plays a vital role in helping to develop and improve health services, and has flagged an important issue in its recent study. However, the ombudsman has its limitations and only deals with around five per cent of the complaints which are referred to it. As a result, whilst the serious issues are dealt with, many issues of patient care cannot be addressed at this level.

    Yet, patient care, which includes every aspect of a service from the attitudes of nursing staff to the cleanliness of the ward, is central to the experience of a patient and gaining their satisfaction of a service.

    It is clear that, whilst the ombudsman has its place, the NHS must have other means of engaging patients and understanding all their concerns. Using websites and online forums enable more issues to be addressed quickly and provides a channel for feedback that openly shows patients that the NHS really is listening.

    Paul Hodgkin
    Chief executive, Patient Opinion

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  • anonymous

    you are apathetic and typical of what "nurses' are on our wards. if you weren,t so engrossed in proving the 'kelloggs' issue perhaps you could have had the time to change someone sitting in their own faeces. such a common issue which to nurses in my experience bares no issue on a persons dignity. perhaps the patient in question was a nast piece of work to to illness ' infection' ' dememtia as a nurse these markedly change a persons personality. you appear to be apathetic and lack compassion. by the way my mother died on a ward represeneted by 'nurses' of your calibre perhaps it was the same one! god help us all!

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