The NHS complaints system has suffered a scathing attack from Dame Julie Mellor, who was appointed to the NHS Ombudsman at the beginning of 2012.

She has said that patients who suffer harm in hospitals are too frightened to complain for fear it will affect the care they receive. Those who do complain face a wall of defences and bureaucracy, when all they are looking for is a simple explanation. Families of patients who have experienced appalling standards of care are often denied any sort of apology.

Due to this defensive culture, it has been found that NHS staff are reluctant to investigate complaints adequately, believing they will be punished for exposing failings in patient care. Consequently hospitals are failing to learn lessons even from the most shocking cases of negligent treatment, making it likely that such incidents will be repeated in the future.

These findings are detailed in a report by the NHS Ombudsman, an organisation which investigates complaints that have not been properly handled by hospital complaints departments. The report has called for concerns to be acted on more quickly, before patient care is jeopardised. It states this can be achieved through the following recommendations:-

  • Access to a free patient’s advice service 24 hours a day;
  • Each patient to be given the name of a senior person – usually the ward sister – as the first port of call for concerns about care;
  • Regular measurement of feedback from patients, so hospitals can compare their handling of complaints and make improvements.

Speaking about the report, Dame Julie Mellor said: “There are three core things that people come to us about. Number one is – ‘I just can’t get a decent explanation’. The second is when something has gone wrong, but there is a lack of acknowledgement of mistakes, and [an] inadequate apology.”

“The third is when there is insufficient remedy – I think that has really struck me about why the public complain, is [that] they do so because they want to prevent the same thing happening to someone else.”

Have you been denied an explanation or an apology?

We often hear from people who have endured terrible standards of care while in hospital. Very few will get an explanation as to why this was allowed to happen, and even fewer will get an apology. Understandably this makes victims of negligent care angry and upset, as they simply want an open and honest account of what happened and, of course, a sincere apology.

If your NHS complaint has been insufficiently handled, you can always ask the NHS Ombudsman to carry out an investigation. You can also contact us at Glynns Solicitors to find out what other options are available to you. If you have been harmed because of a substandard level of medical care, you may be able to pursue a medical negligence claim.  Although this will not undo the damage you have been caused, it does enable you to take action against those responsible for your pain and suffering, helping you to achieve a sense of justice.

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