The Patients Association - Complaints Handling

Article submitted by CBCSG member Keith Anderson

 

The Patients Association was founded in 1963 and continues to listen to patients and speak up for change.

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Weekly News

Keeping you informed about the latest developments in healthcare

 
 

 APPG: Evidence heard on Complaints Handling

 

This week the All Party Parliamentary Group for Patient and Public Involvement in Health and Social Care (for which the Patients Association provides the secretariat), has heard evidence from patients and their families who have been let down by the complaints system.

 

   The NHS complaints system still exposes many patients to a gruelling and unsatisfactory process, despite numerous high level calls for reforms. Research conducted

by the Patients Association found high levels of dissatisfaction with the complaints process with patients frequently encountering unhelpful and defensive staff,complicated procedures to negotiate and sometimes dishonest replies. The findings show that some patients are so daunted by the procedures or worried about being seen as a trouble-maker by hospital staff, that they do not bring a complaint - despite having grounds to do so.

 

The first oral evidence session was held at Portcullis House, Westminster and was chaired by John Pugh MP, along with Rosie Cooper MP and Baroness Masham of Ilton. Oral evidence was provided by six members of the public who have been supported by the Patients Association.

 

Maggie Brooks opened the session with the story of her mother Elsie who died in December 2009 after failings in nursing care. Following an ineffective Trust investigation that took 16 months and brought no explanation to light, the Brooks family took their complaint to the PHSO in 2011.The initial PHSO investigation took over a year and the draft report upheld their complaint. However it failed to investigate the main aspect of their complaint and the investigator had not seen critical medical records.

 

Nic Hart gave a moving account of how his daughter Averil, died while in NHS care in December 2012 after a battle with Anorexia Nervosa. She received inpatient treatment in Cambridge, for Anorexia Nervosa, over a period of nine months. She was discharged from the unit, and started at the University of East Anglia two months later. She registered with the UEA Medical Centre for primary care, and after a delay of several weeks, she was also provided with secondary care by the Norfolk Community Eating Disorder Service.

 

By the time of the scheduled medical review, she had collapsed and had been admitted to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. Mistakes were made, and her condition worsened further; she was then transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital where she sadly died.

 

In late 2013 and early 2014 the complaints were submitted, explaining that there appeared to be numerous significant failures during Averil’s care; specifically that she had originally been discharged from hospital too early, that the transition to secondary care at university was poorly handled and that the secondary care itself was inadequate. It was hoped that these concerns would be fully investigated.

 

We also heard from a father whose son committed suicide, investigation into the compliant found no failings despite expert witness reports and evidence to the contrary. Two patients who were given treatment against their will by unidentified healthcare professionals even when one was allergic to the medication. Richard von Abendorff whose mother suffered a horrifically painful last three days of life because of the hospital’s multiple errors in her opiate pain control. His concerns of the complaints and wider investigatory process highlighted the ‘systemic’ failures but his persistence led to a Patient Safety Alert issued on the use of Naloxone. Further details of these cases can be found here

 

Many of the speakers described themselves as ‘naive’ when they first began the complaints process, believing that their case would be thoroughly and independently reviewed in order to uncover what really happened and why. However, they encountered many of the same problems including difficulties in accessing medical records, failure of hospital Trusts to provide accurate and complete records and a lack of independence and expertise of complaints bodies.  

 

The patients and their families expressed a need for increased expertise, accountability and independence within the complaints process, and argued that the process would be greatly improved if it focussed on the complainant rather than acting as a defence for hospital Trusts. They all expressed the desire

 

Throughout the year, the APPG will be listening to evidence from a broad section of organisations, groups and individuals with expert knowledge and experience of complaints handling. The APPG will be especially focussing on organisations and individuals that have developed best practice guidelines and protocols for dealing with NHS complaints. Future sessions (to be held in September and October) will hear evidence from Clinical Commissioning Groups, hospital Trusts, regulatory bodies and other organisations with an interest in complaints handling.

 

 

 

Jeremey Hunt offers GP’s deal in return for Seven-Day Week

The Health Secretary says an extra 10,000 doctors and practice nurses will be recruited if GP’s sign up to seven-day opening

 

The announcement (19/06/15) by the Health Secretary is welcomed by the Patient Association. Our own research (Patients and GPs - Partners in Care, 2012 and Primary Care: Access Denied, 2013) have highlighted that patient access to primary care has been very poor for many years and access over a seven day period for Patients can enhance effective patient health care.

 

 

The announcement (19/06/15) by the Health Secretary is welcomed by the Patient Association. Our own research (Patients and GPs - Partners in Care, 2012 and Primary Care: Access Denied, 2013) have highlighted that patient access to primary care has been very poor for many years and access over a seven day period for Patients can enhance effective patient health care.

 

The Health Secretary stated that the government will increase investment and help for under-pressure services. The package includes plans to recruit 5,000 new GPs and another 5,000 support staff, including practice nurses. Extra staff would be targeted at areas of England that have struggled to recruit doctors with financial incentives to be offered to facilitate this proposed move. Jeremy Hunt warned that in return the profession now needs to step forward and pool together to share the extended hours to provide seven-day appointments for patients.

 

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association said today:

 

“No one knows when they are going to get sick but when they do they need timely access to the most appropriate safe health and social care services. On our National Helpline we hear from many patients who experience difficulty accessing their GP, they can’t get an appointment so their only option is to go to A&E where they have the confidence they will be seen.   Our recent report with the College of Emergency Medicine, ‘Time to Act – Urgent Care and A&E: the patient perspective’ shows that patients are aware of alternatives to A&E; many still attend A&E because they are unable to access timely help elsewhere. Our questionnaire within the report looked at activity reported from NHS 111 and found that substantial and increasing numbers of patients attend A&E because they are advised to do so by other healthcare providers. 

 

The Patients Association are pleased the Government is going to set out a package of measures to help GPs transform the care they provide to their patients. The Government will need as a priority to invest in primary care services where the General Practitioner will provide 24 hour care with a 7 day service to the public. We are pleased the Government is addressing and investing in this important area of healthcare – We welcome this announcement today -it is a positive step in the right direction – patients deserve a health service that is easily accessible, where they will be treated by skilled staff in a compassionate and dignified way. The Patients Association supports better joined-up multi-agency approaches to social care and would hope that government’s package furthers this initiative whereby patients can access GP and community services for urgent care when the need arises.”

 

 

 

Vacancy on the UK National Screening Committee

 

The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) which advises Ministers and the NHS in all four countries about all aspects of screening policy currently has a vacancy for a Patient and Public Voice rep on the Committee.

                                

Potential candidates should fill in an application form by26 June 2015. A copy of the application pack is availablehere.

 

Members are appointed as individuals to fulfil the terms of reference of the Committee, not as representatives of their particular professions, or their employer or any interest group.

 

 

 New Report: Time to Act – Urgent Care and A&E: the Patient Perspective

 

The Patients Association and The Royal College of Emergency Medicine have published a joint reportTime to Act – Urgent Care and A&E: the Patient Perspective. The report is released following our survey of patients between September 2014 and February 2015 in relation to the choices, decisions and experiences of patients who accessed A&E services for urgent healthcare needs.

 

Findings of the survey include:

 

  • Patients are aware of alternatives to A&E, but many still attend A&E because they are unable to access help elsewhere

 

  • Substantial numbers of patients attend A&E because they are advised to do so by other healthcare providers

 

Our findings demonstrate that the NHS not only needs to ensure that patients are fully informed of services such as out-of-hours GPs, walk-in centres and the NHS 111 service, but must also ensure that these services have sufficient capacity and are available when required. Unless this issue is addressed, we will continue to see more pressure on an already overstretched A&E system.

 

You can read the full report here

 

 

NMC launches consultation on new language requirements for registration.

 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has launched a consultation on the introduction of new English language requirements for registration with the NMC for EEA nurses and midwives and a new ground of impairment for fitness to practise cases. Details of the consultation are available on their website at here

The consultation runs through until Friday 22 August 2015.

 

 

Why our NHS should listen and be human

 

In February, the Patients Association published the report: Why our NHS should listen and be human. This drew together common themes from all the Helpline calls we received during 2014, plus other information from focus groups, listening events and surveys over that year.

Some people had really positive experiences, but a common theme among those who raised concerns was poor communication and a lack of information from health and social care staff. You can read the full report here

 

 

PHSO – “Labyrinth of Bureaucracy” 

 

recent report published by the Patients Association highlights the common complaint themes regarding the PHSO, as described by over two hundred people. Ranging from sub-standard investigation reports to patients not being listened to or believed, the themes all demonstrate that the PHSO is not always providing the service it should. People describe the experience as Kafkaesque.

 

 

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About Us

 

The Patients Association’s motto is ‘Listening to Patients, Speaking up for Change’. This motto is the basis on which we build all our campaigns. Via our Helpline, we capture stories about Healthcare from over thousands of patients, family members and carers every year. We use this knowledge to campaign for real improvements to health and social care services across the UK. In addition, our Helpline provides valuable signposting and information for patients and supports them as they navigate the Healthcare service.

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Our Helpline

The Patients Association Helpline is here to help.

 

  helpline@patients-association.com

  0845 608 44 55.

 

This is a local rate number and if a phone provider charges, we are happy to return calls. The Helpline both informs patients and gathers their views. We are of course available online, providing advice, the latest health news, signposting to further information and general advice.

 

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