The chair of Healthwatch England says the NHS should welcome complaints from people who witness poor care in hospitals, even if they are not themselves a patient.

Writing for the BBC publication Scrubbing Up, Anna Bradley says that most hospitals do not file complaints made by witnesses, such as the family and friends of patients.

Research conducted by Healthwatch England reveals that a third of hospitals in England do not record complaints made by third parties.

Other hospitals record such complaints as informal feedback but offer no follow-up, while others simply ignore the complaints altogether.

In one case, a witness who tried to complain on behalf of a patient was told to “mind their own business.”

The data, which was compiled after a Freedom of Information request was made, suggests that thousands of complaints could be going unrecorded.

Even if the complaints are logged, they are not normally included in official statistics, meaning a hospital’s data does not reveal the true number of complaints.

When validating their decision, many hospitals said that third party complaints cannot be investigated without the patient’s permission. Anna Bradley suggests this is incorrect.

“This is symptomatic of a much bigger problem around complaints handling in the NHS and social care services” she wrote.

“The fact that doctors and nurses would rather tell one of these “citizen whistleblowers” they can’t complain because they don’t tick the right box or have the permission to make a complaint is just wrong.”

“If a passer-by reports an abandoned bag in an airport, the staff don’t say: “I’m sorry sir, but do you have permission of the bag owner”. Rather they are thanked for their vigilance.”

NHS complaints

If you have been subject to poor medical care, you should not hesitate to make a complaint. Each NHS organisation has its own complaints procedure. The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALs) can help you.

Alternatively, if you think you have been harmed because of medical negligence, please get in touch with us to discuss making a medical negligence claim.

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