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Hospitals Told To Probe All Complaints

Hospitals Across The UK Have Been Told They Must Probe All Complaints Received


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Hospitals across the UK have been told they must investigate all accusations of medical negligence.

Although this might lead to the admission of liability and an increased number of complaints, secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt commented the NHS is obliged to respond to all complaints as part of its duty of care.

Lawyers at Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) threatened to take a judicial review into the matter of certain NHS trusts ignoring complaints and accidents, an especially critical issue following the Mid Staffordshire and Morecambe Bay scandals.

But government officials have backed AAMA's campaign and Mr Hunt has now admitted hospitals need to do more in being transparent when it comes to dealing with patient complaints in a timely and ethical fashion.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told the Law Society Gazette: "We expect the NHS to respond to all complaints raised. In exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate for a complaint to be put on hold, but only when a discussion concerning the timing and handling of the complaint between the organisation and the complainant has taken place."

While it is often time consuming for NHS trusts to respond to complaints, a BBC investigation into so-called Never Events - errors that should never happen in an NHS trust because of their severity - has previously shown the need for care to be improved.

It was found that between 2009 and 2012 there were 762 Never Events and 322 of these included the retention of foreign objects in the body after the end of an operation - with scalpels and forceps among metal implements left in some patients after they had operations.

These incidents were not made known to the public and in many cases complaints were not followed up properly - prompting criticism from AvMA that the Department of Health and some NHS England bosses were trying to reduce the chances of litigation.

Expert Opinion
"Patients often feel very strongly about how they have been treated and should be able to raise any concerns knowing that they will be investigated.

"How can the NHS spot any trends in poor care if not all complaints are investigated. The Keogh Review and Francis Report earlier this year in relation to the NHS have proved that transparency is crucial to identifying what lessons can be learnt and improving patient safety. Some complaints may turn out to be nothing – but those that do show there has been substandard treatment could lead to improvements in patient care could help prevent any future harm.

"Medical negligence has a massive impact on peoples' lives whether that is the victim of injury or families who may have lost loved ones. It seems absurd that in such a serious industry we could be ignoring patient complaints which if investigated could potentially save lives."
Lisa Jordan, Partner