NHS complaints revolution 'needed'

Ann Clwyd MP Ann Clwyd has criticised some nurses for the care and compassion they gave to her late husband

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The culture of delay and denial over NHS complaints in England must come to an end, a review of the system says.

The government-commissioned inquiry - led by Labour MP Ann Clwyd - said too many patients found the current approach unresponsive and confusing.

It said it was putting the health service on a year's notice to improve accountability and transparency.

To achieve this, the review has got 12 key organisations to sign up to a series of pledges.

These include:

Start Quote

The days of delay, deny and defend must end and hospitals must become open, learning organisations”

End Quote Ann Clwyd
  • The Nursing and Midwifery Council to include new duties over complaints handling in its code of conduct.
  • A pledge from Health Education England to develop an e-learning course to improve training.
  • NHS England promising to work with local managers to hold hospitals and other providers to account.
  • The Care Quality Commission to place a strong focus on complaints in its new hospital inspection regime.
  • Hospitals will also be expected to publish annual reports in "plain English" on complaints.

The review was commissioned by the government after the public inquiry into the Stafford Hospital scandal.

Ms Clwyd was asked to lead it after she broke down in a BBC interview last December while describing the poor care her late husband had received.

She was sent more than 2,500 letters and emails from people describing similar problems and dissatisfaction with the way complaints are handled.

They said they were often unaware of how to make complaints or of the identities of staff they wanted to complain about.

They also said they feared reprisals if they did raise concerns.

Open hospitals

The report concluded there had been a "decade of failure" and called for a revolution in complaints handling.

As well as the steps mentioned above, it said relatively simple measures, such as providing patients with paper and a pen beside their beds and displaying the names of staff on duty, could also help.

Ms Clwyd said: "When I made public the circumstances of my own husband's death last year, I was shocked by the deluge of correspondence from people whose experience of hospitals was heart-breaking.

"It made me determined to do my best to get change in the system.

"The days of delay, deny and defend must end and hospitals must become open, learning organisations."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the report and said a full response to the Stafford Hospital inquiry and the reports that have followed, which include this one as well as others on healthcare assistants, mortality rates and patient safety, would be made before the end of the year.

He added: "I want to see a complete transformation in hospitals' approach to complaints so that they become valued as vital learning tools."

But patient groups questioned how committed the government really was.

Peter Walsh, of Action Against Medical Accidents, pointed out that the government appeared to be watering down the duty of candour called for after the Stafford Hospital scandal.

The public inquiry had suggested this should become a legally enforceable duty, but latest plans suggest this will only be applied to the most serious cases of harm.

Call for advice service

Mr Walsh said: "For all the good commonsense proposals contained in the report, they would be rendered useless if the government restricts the duty of candour in this way."

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: "The NHS has an unfortunate tendency to push complainants away and pull down the shutters. That has to change."

The report comes as the health ombudsman calls for a 24-hour advice service for unhappy patients.

Writing in the BBC News website's Scrubbing Up column, ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor said: "Too often we hear of patients not having the confidence to raise a concern on a hospital ward."

She said patients and carers should be able to access advice on how to raise a concern "24 hours a day, seven days a week", and that "every patient, carer and relative would have the opportunity to raise an issue in person, by email or over the phone".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    . jo
    I have just had a yearly scan and the difference between last year and this year is incredible they were so understaffed, .... The privatisation imposed on the country by the Tories and their puppy dog LIbDems is already starting to be a disaster. God help poor people//

    Oh give it a rest, you transparent NHS/Labour plant.

    The NHS was murderously bad at NStaffs etc under Labour!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I feel for sympathy the NHS. It is a well intended cure that's worse than the disease. As long as we suffer this centrally run bureaucratic disaster imposing its poor standards upon us, rather than up having the freedom of choosing who is worthy of taking care of us, we will continue to suffer and the good people in the NHS will struggle to address our grievances.

    Time for change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I don`t know about anyone else but I am sick to death of reading and hearing how bad the NHS is. During my life I have had to use the NHS on several occasions and every time I have used it I have been impressed at the service I received and grateful that it was there when I needed it

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    The problem with this big organisations is that managers build themself a cosy nest. After that, the system serves the managers not the other way.
    And if you want to fire them, then you end up in court or with massive golden handshaks - for a person who did a crap job....crazy

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The characteristics of a health care worker should be care and compassion. These cannot be taught.
    Insisting on a degree for a nurse is crackers, and in some instances makes providing the basics beneath that of a graduate.
    Anyone who thinks otherwise needs treatment

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    A start - but recommendations do not address the fact that the NHS persuade people to not make complaints and persuade them to withdraw complaints :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I have just had a yearly scan and the difference between last year and this year is incredible they were so understaffed, you can talk about this till you are blue in the face unless the amount of NURSING STAFF is increased we will be going round in circles. The privatisation imposed on the country by the Tories and their puppy dog LIbDems is already starting to be a disaster. God help poor people

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I do not believe this issue is about caring staff.

    The system is not geared up to care for people, it has become all about numbers and statistics.

    A vicious circle has been created where success is determined by meeting targets, and all too often these targets (savings) impact on both hospital staff and also 'service users' (sick people).

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The NHS is one of if not the most complex organisations in the whole world. Things go wrong with all human endeavours and the surprising thing to my mind is that more has not gone wrong in such a huge organisation than is actually the case. I think this shows that the people who run the NHS from the chief executives down to the hospital porters are overwhelmingly conscientious and competent people

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The basic problem with NHS complaints processes is the large number of patients clogging up the system and getting in the way of government inspired reorganisations and the pursuit of this week's random collection of new targets. What sickens me is that these patients are only there in the first place because they are injured or ill......

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    This forum will probably disintegrate in to the 'knock the NHS' forum for those on the right who don't even think it should exist.
    The NHS like all public and private organisations has it's faults.
    The way it addresses these faults is currently introspective and self protective.
    However the care it gives and the overall GDP cost still make it the best in the world. Let's improve it and cherish it

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I have a chronic condition and am nothing but impressed with the treatment I get from the NHS - could we have a "thank you" revolution as well please so the hard working people in the NHS dont feel so trodden on

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Should be 'Duty of Candour' for health professionals as individuals.The very worst area of abuse is with vulnerable people with mental health problems inc older people.Yet in Mental Health NHS there is NO right or option for choice You only get access to what the local NHS Trust. Complain and you increase the risk of abuse as you have nowhere else you or your loved one can go.So no protection

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    It would be interesting to hear from the BMA or the RCN on this All too often they have been defensive or in denial about problems in the NHS and have contributed to the in-built fear of staff to 'blow the whistle' when they encounter unprofessional conduct. As long as they act as trades unions, and put their members' interests ahead of the well-being of thee patients NHS will have a problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    There might be less complaints if every time a head honcho vowed 'lessons will be learned'...lessons actually were learned instead of just covering their backs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    There are many good, caring people in the medical profession.

    There are also many managers who are driven by performance targets which do not necessarily equate to good patient care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    If the airline industry acted in the same way as the NHS in its approach to poor practice, negligence or mistakes, we would have planes coming out of the sky and killing hundreds and thousands daily. Instead they overcame the ego's and put the customer before themselves, the outcome is a very safe system that learns from each mistake. The NHS and the medical profession is currently in denial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.


    You are correct. 2nd rate care for the most part. Used to work for the NHS - got out years ago because of the low standards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I don't like Jeremy Hunt adding his pointless two pennies worth - he is single-handedly trying to destroy a whole range of successful hospitals for an ideological position.
    Not all hospitals and hospital care is ideal and complaints should be taken seriously; however, I am very proud of the NHS and most care that my family and I have received has been of an excellent standard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The BBC and NHS are being talked down to prime us for full privatisation.


Page 23 of 24


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