Elderly patients reluctant to complain

  • Date: 06 January 2016

PEOPLE over the age of 65 are often reluctant to complain about the quality of their healthcare out of worry that it might impact future treatment, according to a new report from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The review was undertake by the PHSO after noting far fewer complaints from older patients than would be expected given their high usage of NHS and social care services. It was based on focus groups with older people and their carers (organised by Independent Age), a national survey of 689 people over the age of 65 and a review of unresolved complaints brought to the Ombudsman.

Over half (56 per cent) of those aged 65 and over who had experienced a problem but not complained were worried about the impact that complaining might have on their future treatment and a third (32 per cent) felt that complaining would not make a difference.

Nearly one in five (18 per cent) people over the age of 75 did not know how to raise a complaint about the NHS or a social care provider, and less than a third surveyed could recall being offered support to make a complaint.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: "Older people are some of the most frequent and vulnerable users of health and social care services but are the silent majority when it comes to complaining.

"Their reluctance to complain could mean that they are suffering in silence and could lead to missed opportunities to improve the service for others.

"We want older people to be confident to speak up when things go wrong to help prevent someone else from going through the same ordeal."

The report recommends that all NHS and organisations that provide social care should consult My Expectations for raising concerns and complaints, which sets out what good complaint handling looks like from the perspective of patients and people that use the service. It is also intended to help organisations measure whether the actions undertaken are making a difference to the patient experience.

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