NHS trusts criticised over ‘defensive’ complaint responses

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A health ombudsman has criticised NHS trusts for failing to resolve complaints properly, after a new report showed issues such as delays in diagnosing cancer were not being addressed.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has today published details of 100 cases it resolved over three months last year, including five in Yorkshire.

In all of them, patients or their families complained to the organisation involved first, but they were not resolved satisfactorily.

Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “We see far too many complaints that could have been resolved locally by the NHS, leaving people waiting longer for answers and delaying much needed service improvements.

“When people pluck up the courage to complain they are all too often met with defensive and inadequate responses.

“Complaints need to be dealt with properly, so that people are given answers and to help prevent any failures from happening again.”

Two of the Yorkshire cases involved Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.

In one, there was a delay in diagnosing advanced lung cancer which the patient’s family felt deprived them of spending quality time with him before his death.

The ombudsman found the outcome would have been the same even if the illness had been diagnosed sooner, but his care was not in line with good practice.

The other case involved a family who paid £4,000 for private care for their elderly relative after he suffered a fall in hospital and his discharge was rushed so there wasn’t the right support at his care home. The trust apologised and paid his family £2,000.

Brendan Brown, director of nursing at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We can only offer a further apology to both families as we failed to deliver the care, communication and attention they should have expected, and clearly caused further distress for both patients and their loved ones.”

He said they had introduced a new system of responding to complaints to prevent similar issues happening again.

A woman who gave birth at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust later needed to be readmitted. The ombudsman found appropriate assessments hadn’t been carried out before discharging her and she was paid £350 for distress caused.

Richard Parker, director of nursing, midwifery and quality, said they tried hard to resolve complaints directly and where the ombudsman became involved, welcomed feedback.

Another case found a failure in treatment of a man who was admitted to York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with heart problems who was kept on a short stay ward without necessary tests.

The trust promised to improve care, as well as paying the patient’s wife £1,000.

A spokesperson for the trust said they had apologised and introduced measures to ensure heart patients received prompt assessments.

A complaint over an elderly person’s care at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was partly upheld. The trust promised to improve and paid £1,250 to the family.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “These examples make clear that patients making a complaint deserve a quick, honest and thorough response, with hospitals, GPs, and mental health services learning from what went wrong and committing to put things right.”