Poor apology most common patient complaint

  • Date: 24 September 2015

AN inadequate apology was the most common reason hospital patient complaints in England were escalated to the Ombudsman last year, a new report shows.

This was a factor in a third (34 per cent) of complaints about acute trusts investigated by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) in 2014-15.

The second most common reason for escalation to the PHSO was a poorly drafted/inaccurate response to the original complaint, which occurred in 24 per cent of cases. Complainants who felt mistakes were not acknowledged accounted for 11 per cent of referrals.

The PHSO’s report also showed the reasons that prompted people to complain about acute trusts in the first place.

Non-medical issues accounted for almost half of complaints, including poor communication (35 per cent) and staff attitude (21 per cent). Failure to diagnose was a factor in 31 per cent of complaints while clinical care and treatment accounted for 38 per cent.

The report revealed the PHSO now undertake 10 times as many investigations about the NHS and acute trusts than in the past.

This follows changes to complaints handling procedures in 2013. The report states: "We now investigate a complaint if we think there may be a case to answer, whereas in the past we would only investigate if we were fairly certain that there was."

In 2014-15 they dealt with 21,371 enquiries about NHS organisations including 8,835 about acute trusts. This compares to 18,870 enquiries in 2013-14, of which 8,178 related to acute trusts.

Last year they investigated 1,652 complaints about acute trusts, upholding 726 (44 per cent). This is a sharp rise on the 2013-14 total of 852 investigations, but with the same uphold rate.

The report also outlines the number of unresolved complaints the PHSO investigated for every acute trust in England and the final decision made, and compares the numbers to the size of each trust. But they said this information was not designed to "rank trusts on the basis of their complaints information or assess the performance of individual trusts when it comes to handling complaints."

Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: "We know that there are many factors that influence the number of complaints hospitals receive, such as organisational size, demographics and whether they actively encourage feedback from patients.

"I strongly believe that NHS leaders should welcome feedback from patients and recognise the opportunities that good complaint handling offers to improve the services they provide.

"We are publishing this data to help hospital trusts identify problems and take action to ensure trust in the healthcare system remains high."


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