Widow 'thrilled' by bill to let ombudsman probe private health

Peter and Ruth LewisImage source, Family picture
Image caption,
Ruth Lewis said Peter had been discharged too early

A widow whose complaints about her husband's care took five years to resolve has welcomed the passing of a bill by AMs to give Wales' Public Service Ombudsman more powers.

Peter Lewis, from Llanelli, was discharged from Cardiff's private Spire Hospital in December 2010.

His condition worsened and he died in January 2011 at Prince Philip Hospital.

Ruth Lewis praised the bill, backed by AMs on Wednesday, that will extend the ombudsman's remit to private hospitals.

Assembly members endorsed the legislation by 46 votes to one.

The bill will give Nick Bennett's office powers to investigate where there is an obvious problem but no complaint has come forward, or to extend an investigation into a complaint where there is likely to be a systemic failure.

The bill would also extend the jurisdiction of the ombudsman to include private healthcare, where the patient has chosen to be treated in both public and private sectors.

Currently private clinics and hospitals only fall within the ombudsman's remit if treatment provided there was commissioned and funded by the NHS.

Former rugby player Mr Lewis, 83, was admitted to Spire Hospital for knee replacement surgery.

He was also suffering from kidney failure and other complicating illnesses.

Mr Lewis was discharged shortly before Christmas, but died at Prince Philip from hospital-acquired pneumonia the following month.

Mrs Lewis felt he had been discharged from Spire too soon, not been given appropriate care and monitoring in the hospital and "denied a fighting chance" to recover from surgery.

Spire has said providing high-quality patient care was its "utmost priority" and was taken "very seriously".

Image caption,
Ruth Lewis says it is a relief to her that the ombudsman could investigate a similar situation in future

Mrs Lewis asked for independent adjudication in June 2014, after feeling earlier inquiries into her complaints by Spire had not been rigorous enough, but the investigation by Sally Williams did not begin until September 2015.

In her report, submitted to Mrs Lewis and Spire in June 2016, Ms Williams upheld two of Mrs Lewis' complaints in full and one partially.

She said aspects of the care at Spire "represent a serious departure from the standard to be reasonably expected", concluding Mr Lewis should have received a blood transfusion prior to surgery and not to have done so amounted to "a significant failure in delivery of care".

It was a "failure of good practice" not to repeat certain tests before Mr Lewis' discharge from hospital.

But the report did not find negligence in the care provided. Spire was ordered to make a "goodwill payment" of £2,250 to Mrs Lewis.

'Great relief'

Earlier on Wednesday, Mrs Lewis said she was "thrilled and excited about the possibility of the bill being passed".

"I did feel that when (the) ombudsman looked into the care in the national health service that it would be a very fair and a thorough investigation," she said.

"Unfortunately that wasn't reflected in my concerns about the care that happened when Peter was a patient in the private hospital.

"I was coming up against a brick wall several times, being told that everything had been answered and I still wasn't satisfied or I didn't feel that my concerns had been addressed fully.

"I did eventually manage to have an independent investigation but that would have been almost impossible if I hadn't persevered and really become obsessed with the whole process."

Mrs Lewis added: "It's a great relief to me really that he would be able to have powers to investigate a similar situation in the future."