Scale of shocking health failures revealed

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said the cases show the impact of service failure on individuals and their families.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said the cases show the impact of service failure on individuals and their families.
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FAILURES BY the health service to spot serious illnesses, breaches in cancer waiting times and unsafe discharges from A&E have been highlighted in a new report by the watchdog responsible for investigating NHS complaints.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has published more than 160 summaries of investigations it carried out in October and November 2014 – nine of which are in Yorkshire and the Humber.

These include a woman whose cancer diagnosis was repeatedly missed, a man who underwent surgery he did not require, a woman who left in “severe pain” due to treatment delays and various complaints regarding GPs.

During the period, 41 per cent of complaints were upheld by the ombudsman, which has the power to order health trusts to compensate those wronged.

In one case, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust was ordered to pay the daughter of a dying woman who was not given adequate pain relief £1,000 to compensate for the distress caused for failings in care.

The woman, identified only as Mrs M, had initially been seen by Bradford Teaching Hospitals, who investigated her failing health over several months but did not diagnose cancer and discharged her.

Advanced lung cancer was later diagnosed at Leeds, which discharged her to a hospice where she died.

The ombudsman found no failings by the Bradford trust, but said the woman “suffered unnecessary, pain, distress and loss of dignity” due to the failings in nursing care by the Leeds Trust.

Chief nurse and deputy chief executive of the Trust, Suzanne Hinchliffe, said it sincerely regretted that the care fell short of its usual high standards, and said it had put an action plan to learn from what happened.

In a separate case, a woman complained that delays in diagnosis of her endometriosis by Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust resulted in her having to pay for IVF, costing £5,000.

The ombudsman partly upheld the complaint, and said delays resulted in the woman being left in “severe pain” for longer than might have been had treatment been given sooner.

She was awarded £750 in compensation.

Medical director at the Harrogate trust, Dr David Scullion, said it apologised to the patient, prepared an action plan and put additional training in place.

He added: “We are grateful to the Ombudsman for highlighting these improvements to our care processes.”

In another case, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust was ordered to pay a man £1,000 after he complained he was given an operation to remove kidney stones that was unnecessary.

The consultant urologist had relied on a CT scan that was eight months old before operating - only to find no evidence of kidney stones during the operation. The ombudsman said the Trust should have x-rayed the patient again to check if the stone has passed naturally, to avoid a “needless operation.”

Wendy Booth, the Trust’s director of performance assurance, said the agreed action plan included reviewing the management of ureteric stones.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said the cases show the impact that service failure can have on individuals and their loved ones.

Unison’s head of health in Yorkshire, Tony Pearson, said the continuing Government underfunding of the NHS, coupled with vast costs for private agency staff and inadequate support and training for new staff, would “inevitably” lead to problems.

A Department of Health spokesperson said it had made it easier for people to complain and made hospitals legally-obliged to apologise to patients when mistakes happen.

x Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS paid out more money in compensation awards in 2013/14 than any other English hospital trust, the Medical Defence Union said - £22.4m.

A Trust spokesperson said the amount reflected the size of the Trust.