NHS hospitals don’t ‘listen and learn from patients’, says Ombudsman

  • Date: 01 May 2013

POOR explanations and a failure to acknowledge mistakes are among the key reasons hospital patients take their complaints to the Ombudsman.

Other factors prompting patients to escalate complaints include the offer of inadequate financial remedy and unnecessary delays. The findings are revealed in a new report from the Health Service Ombudsman which says NHS hospitals are “failing to listen and learn from patients.”

The NHS hospital complaints system. A case for urgent treatment? looks at the main reasons why patients, their families and carers brought their complaint to the Ombudsman in 2012-2013. It follows the report by Robert Francis QC on the failings at Mid Staffordshire Trust which stated: “[The Board] did not listen sufficiently to its patients or its staff or ensure the correction of deficiencies brought to the Trust’s attention.”

The Ombudsman said Mid Staffordshire was far from being an isolated case and that there were “systemic problems leading to missed opportunities to learn from mistakes and make NHS hospitals better”.

The report highlighted multiple failings in the following of complaints procedures, a lack of compassion when dealing with patients and families, and a failure by hospital managers to take action on complaints and learn from mistakes.

Health Service Ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor said: “We know that 64 per cent 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.”


The NHS hospital complaints system. A case for urgent treatment?

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