The patients ‘left in the dark’ over NHS mistakes

Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
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TOO many people ‘aren’t getting answers’ as to why their NHS treatment went wrong, the watchdog responsible for investigating complaints has said.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigated 1,075 unresolved complaints in February and March this year, including cases where nursing home patients were wrongly charged thousands of pounds for their care and delays in diagnosis which meant that one woman was left with unrelenting facial pain for more than a decade.

It says too many complaints are coming to the watchdog, leaving people waiting too long for answers, when they should be dealt with quickly by the organisations directly involved.

It has published details of 192 cases, including nine in Yorkshire and the Humber.

These include a woman in West Yorkshire worried she had been put at risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis when a nurse gave her a flu vaccine with a needle that had already been used.

A family from Sheffield was warned by a dermatologist they would be treated as a child protection case if they did not follow his medical advice against using a herbal cream to treat their son’s severe eczema. The complaint, against Sheffield Children’s Hospital Trust, was upheld by the Ombudsman, who found the Trust were inconsistent with the family about whether it was a safeguarding issue, and took too long to respond to the family’s complaint. It was made to pay the couple £500 in compensation.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals was made to apologise and pay compensation to a woman whose son was stillborn after she went into premature labour. She complained the Trust made no attempt to save her baby.

While the Ombudsman did not find any failures in clinical care, it found failures in communication led to “uncertainty and stress” to the woman during a very traumatic experience. Another West Yorkshire GP practice was made to pay an autistic man £200 for the emotional impact of its failings under the Equality Act.

During February and March 2015, the Ombudsman upheld 34 per cent of the unresolved complaints it investigated. Of the 192 complaints, 116 were about NHS England.

The Ombudsman said the cases “provide a clear and valuable lesson” for public services by showing what needs to change to help avoid the same mistakes happening again.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “In many of the complaints we see, the organisation complained about has done the right thing to put things right. But too many people aren’t getting the answers to what went wrong from the organisation they complained about.”

NHS England’s director for improving patient experience Neil Churchill said: “We welcome this report which demonstrates very clearly the need to improve the consistency and accuracy of communication.

“Complaints and feedback can help us become the safest health service in the world.”