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 269.

    First sentence of story on this web page, quote
    "The culture of ... denial over NHS complaints in England must come to an end"

    Reading many of these HYS comments, including sadly several highrated ones, the denial is not only inside the NHS.

  • Comment number 268.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    We need to stop treating the NHS as a sacred cow and all it's employees as angels. It's a public service just like other public service, it and it's employees are good, bad and indifferent, just like other public services. When it's good it should be praised and the employees concerned rewarded, when it's bad it should be criticised and the individuals disciplined and if necessary sacked!

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Just now

    Jeremy was comparing NHS wages and payoffs to those at the beeb.
    Silly man, no one can outdo the beeb on that score.
    There is an obvious flaw in your comment, you forgot the banking spivs, they really do take the biscuit!

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    I do hope Wales falls in line here too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    i just wish people would realise that most complaints are just a crock. and that most people have absolutely stupid expectations of the staff in the NHS, from what I have seen most families of patients need a good slap and need to wake up, from being a buch of moronic idiots.
    The doctors and nurses in the NHS should just avoid having anything to do with the cretins.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    I no longer wish to have my hard earned money confiscated to pay for the heath care of Pakistani Nationals in NHS hospital when they have not paid a rupee into it ! That the NHS don't even know how much this costs is a disgrace and insult to the victims of the tax theft that fund it ! And no amount of Marxist screeching will change my view ..If they are so lax on this one can only imagine the rest

  • Comment number 262.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    I'm a signed up so called trustee of a hospital, the Management just ignore us with our comments. If they weren't Civil Servants and in the private sector they'd be accountable for their inability to listen and carry out the requests of the general public/patients etc. because of this, as with the BBC COUNCILS AND SIMILAR, CIVIL SERVANTS ACT THE OPPOSITE TO THEIR TITLES!! Too much uncontrolled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    Remind me, which party put suits into the NHS? Oh yes, the same one that's now orchestrating the dirt directed at them, along with state education, the BBC, a solid safety net for the poorest in society, and most of what constitutes civilisation. Why are we sleepwalking into this wholesale destruction of valued institutions?
    How did we come to elect the Tea Party?

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    Actually, what your fears are precisely happening now under our Marxist health system.

    How do we have freedom here? The NHS is guranteed income, a hairdresser, or business, is not. They must please customers to merit it. The NHS does not. Hairdressing is just as "public element" as healthcare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    I'm afraid management in many parts of the NHS is woefully inadequate. I am dumbfounded how bad the management is having see how it works in other professions from past experience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Why not have the auxiliary nurses back, they could help patients wash and eat freeing up much needed time for RGN nurses to look after the medical aspects of care. Young doctors need more experienced doctors to help and guide them. I know this will cost more money but savings could be found in reducing the number of clerical staff, not replacing people as they leave or retire. Medical staff first

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Most staff in the NHS are excellent. The fact is that there are simply not enough clinical staff to deal with the volume of patients coming through the service and although they do their absolute best, they are being stymied by rules, performance targets and a lack of professional support because there aren't enough colleagues to provide that support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    People who are worried about complaining should think twice before they do for fear of being "run out of town" in consequence. Read the story in yesterday's Observer about Julie Bailey and the Mid-Staffs affair. If what has happened to her is true, it is diabolical and I am surprised the police haven't taken a greater interest in the matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    226. farkyss
    Unfortunately (or not in some views) there is a solution to supply not meeting demand.People die and then costs are reduced.I can remember sitting as a lay person at a NHS board mtg at a Mental Health Trust in the 80's where they discussed 'winter wastage' and 'natural outcome' figures in relation to budgets.Took me a while to realise that this was code for people dying.Deja vu.

  • Comment number 253.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    Individual complaints yes, but the Tories want people to think the NHS is out of control and can only be solved with privatization, they are physiologically undermining the supporters of the NHS.

    If the NHS goes it's gone forever!

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    The training? The newly qualified who come to the Medical Ward, kind, beautiful ppl. But in Winter pressure on a Night shift, not allowed to do IVI IVABs, leaving the other 1 qualified to do 14 of same and that is just at 6am not all throughout the night.
    It upsets them and doesn't really endear them to the 9 month qual, who's been left in charge & can't help hcas as they're a nurse!

  • Comment number 250.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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