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Ombudsman data reveals extent of complaints against NHS

'Statistics shows the challenges people face when confronted with medical negligence'

28 November 2014

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Recently released data from the Health Service Ombudsman shows the NHS received 174,872 written complaints over the last year. This represents an increase from 162,019 during 2012/2013.

The biggest concerns voiced by patients include medical misdiagnosis, lack of communication and poor attitude of NHS staff, as well as concerns over the standard of clinical care and treatment.

The figures paint a varied picture of hospital trusts, with some receiving more complaints than others, and some dealing with them in what patients consider to be a satisfactory manner.

Commenting on the figures, Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: "These results should remind the NHS about the need for a more personalised approach to care that welcomes feedback, rather than becoming defensive. It is this culture change that is needed if services are to be improved for everyone.

"We know that poor communications, errors with diagnosis and poor care and treatment are the most common reasons why people complain to us about their hospital treatment. We hope NHS leaders use the data in this report to identify themes, and recurring problems in order to understand what they have done well and how they can improve their complaint handling."

Barts Health NHS Trust in London topped the complaints league with 2,451 grievances lodged after 579,271 incidents. 12 per cent of these were upheld by the ombudsman.

A spokesperson for the hospital said: "As the largest NHS Trust in England, with over two million patient contacts a year, we would expect to see a proportionally higher rate of complaints when compared to other NHS Trusts. We take all complaints seriously and work with our patients to ensure they are treated in a swift, sensitive and compassionate manner."

Mark Pickering, a senior litigator of medical negligence at Asons Solicitors commented: "These new statistics demonstrate the challenges which people and families face when confronted with medical negligence. The lack of investigations made, and complaints that are actually upheld, clearly demonstrates the need to instruct experienced medical negligence lawyers from the start."

Figures also showed Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was the subject of 382,999 incidents and 1,192 complaints, which led to 120 reports to the ombudsman. Out of 17 investigations, two were upheld.

The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases NHS Foundation Trust in Bath, seemed to have the most satisfied patients with only 12 complaints made during 2013/2014.The Cambridge-based Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust received 48, and Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust on The Wirral also fared well with just 19.

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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Clinical negligence