Following the publication of the Patients Association report last month, the charity have written to the Secretary of State for Health to raise their concerns about the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman. The charity recognises the excellent care provided within the NHS but highlights the concerns regarding the failure by the NHS to properly respond to complaints and then the difficulties faced by patients if the complaint is referred to the Ombudsman. The number of complaints referred to the Ombudsman has increased in recent years. The Francis report set out the lessons to be learnt from Mid Staffs, which included the importance of listening to patient complaints to improve standards and to identify problems at an early stage.
November 2014 also saw the introduction of a statutory “duty of candour” within hospitals in the NHS, which develops the ethical duty on medical staff and a contractual duty introduced in 2013. In essence this duty requires healthcare professionals to tell patients when something has gone wrong, apologise, explain why it happened and what can be done. Patients should therefore be more informed when things go wrong or mistakes happen, and have the opportunity to discuss this with the doctors and health care professionals involved. Whether this will lead to a decrease in complaints and referrals to the Ombudsman has yet to be seen, but much will depend on how the medical professionals handle the patient’s reaction and help them to understand what has gone wrong and reassure them that lessons have been learnt.
A medical negligence claim does not always follow a complaint, but many patients feel forced to consider making a claim when they cannot get the answers to their questions or explanation. Getting advice from an expert in clinical negligence and complaints can be incredibly helpful for patients, may speed up the process and allows the patient to understand what options are available to them.
Please click here to read the letter from the Patients Association - http://patients-association.com/Default.aspx?tabid=80&Id=2210