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NHS 'failing to listen and learn', says ombudsman


There are “systematic problems” with NHS hospitals failing to listen and learn from patient complaints, the Health Service Ombudsman has warned.

The Francis report into the serious care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust found that the trust’s board did not listen to patients or staff.

But the ombudsman said in a new report today that far from Mid Staffordshire being an isolated case, there are “systemic problems with NHS hospitals failing to listen and learn from patients”.

The main reasons patients and their loved ones complained to the ombudsman last year included poor explanations, no acknowledgement of mistakes, inadequate financial remedies and unnecessary delays.

Another failing identifed was that staff either did not know about their trust’s complaints procedures or, if they did, failed to follow them properly.

Health Service Ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor said: “We know that 64% of people do not believe that complaining will make a difference.

“One woman was advised to complain in writing about concerns that her mother was not being washed or helped to go to the toilet in hospital. She was told her complaint would be acknowledged within 28 days. ‘My Mum could’ve died in that amount of time’, she said.”

“People complain because they want to know what has gone wrong, they want an apology and they want to make sure others don’t suffer the same problems.

“We see example after example of cases where hospitals aren’t using complaints as the vital source of feedback they are. Learning from patients, improving services and building trust all flow from managing complaints effectively.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • michael stone

    This is NOT news -failing to learn from patient and relative feedback/complaints, is a major impediment to service improvement throughout the NHS.

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  • issues should be effectively dealt with long before they get as far as an ombudsman. there should only be recourse to this service for complex and very rare exceptions instead of the norm it seems to have become.

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  • And yet we hear about trusts like UHMB wanting to get rid of nurses. Surely in an already failing hospital and in light of the francis report nurses should be the key factor not lots of managers with vague and non clinical titles.
    Perhaps spending less on expensive locums and utilising the skills of experienced nurses would be a more cost and clinical effective way of saving money.

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  • tinkerbell

    and so it continues, are any lessons being learned or are they unteachable?

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  • Why on earth would a complaint be made about a patient not being washed and toileted?
    Simply - not enough nursing and care staff on busy wards. Many patients are forgotten in the melee of a hectic ward. I have seen nursing and care staff pulled hither and dither to answer call bells, phones, patients questions, relatives questions & provide first class care when they can.
    I trained as a nurse in the 1970s and left the profession in 1993. Therefore I can relate. How the nurses cope now, my goodness! I would visit the ward (stroke rehab/acute medical - who thought up that mix? Modern Muppet Matron probably?) to give my elderly mother breakfast. The poor staff were simply too busy to dedicate the time required to feed a 90 year old blind woman a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea. Many more needed assistance. I helped two other elderly ladies have their breakfast.
    In the meantime, the ward was awash with Doctors(consultants) interrupting the nurse conducting medication round and patients eating breakfast. I felt so sorry for the nurse one day. She told the rather uppity Doctor (Pardon me) that she was in the middle of medication round in the most polite way. She told her, that she liked to start early in order to miss the afternoon traffic! Several patients laughed and one told her that her diary was full and she could fit her in at about 5pm. It was funny.
    The poor nurse did the ward round though, medications, peg feeds and were done later. Hope that she documented the interruption. The best was yet to come. A gaggle of AHPs (OT/PT/SALT) arrived on the ward. Another bunch on a stretched time envelope. Patients hoisted out of bed and shipped of to 'happy gangs' at 9:15am even before the aroma of the morning typhoo tea tickles their nostrils. Call bells going off, phones ringing and patients shouting out. It appeared to me that the Staff Nurses and HCAs where the only people with hearing or the ability to pick up a phone?
    What on earth is going on?
    The nursing staff and HCAs were amazing. My Mum recovered from her UTI and is now back home. I remember all you names girls and boys. The 'other' professionals are not remembered. Perhaps they should earn the title again. Thank You. Pat.

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