11 February 2015
‘Appalling’ NHS Complaints Process Guilty of Medical Negligence
A report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has revealed more than a third of investigations into deaths or avoidable harm at hospitals were “inadequate”, prompting Healthwatch England Chief Executive, Dr Katherine Rake to call for a “complete overhaul of the complaints system” in light of the report’s finding.
The PHSO reviewed 150 complaints alleging NHS patients died or suffered avoidable harm due to Medical Negligence from the NHS. The health watchdog reported that 28 of the 150 cases should have been investigated as a Serious Untoward Incident (SUI) which allows doctors to learn from past errors. 71% of the reviewed cased were not pursued as an SUI, suggesting a failing in care.
Dr Rake commented that the research “shows that tens of thousands of people are being failed by the NHS and yet never report it because they have no faith the complaints system will make any difference.”
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Julie Mellor, said, “Investigations weren’t carried out when they should have been and when they were carried out they did not find out or explain why failings happened. When people make a complaint that they have been seriously harmed they should expect it to be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.”
People interviewed for the review said that they felt “belittled” and “misled” by NHS staff. The shortcomings in health care services are attributed to Medical Negligence on the part of the NHS.
A Department of Health spokesman said, “We have set out the ambition to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world and know that listening to patients and staff is absolutely vital to improving care.
“That’s why we’ve made NHS hospitals legally obliged to apologise to patients when mistakes do happen, introduced complaints handling as a crucial element of tougher hospital inspections and asked Robert Francis to produce an independent report on how to create a more open NHS culture.”
Slater and Gordon Senior Medical Negligence Lawyer James Bell said, “I welcomed the introduction of the statutory Duty of Candour in November 2014 but my clients have yet to see genuine honesty in the complaints process. Complaint responses by NHS are still far too woolly and unfocussed. My clients still lack faith that the NHS will tell them the truth when things go wrong.”
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