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Ombudsman: 'Toxic Cocktail' of Problems Damaging British Health Service

By    |   Wednesday, 14 Aug 2013 10:46 AM

Britain’s hospitals are plagued by a culture of fear and defensiveness that leaves patients and family members afraid to raise concerns about poor-quality care for fear of retaliation, according National Health Service (NHS) Ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor.
 
Mellor, who investigates patient complaints about the quality of care and staff misconduct in Britain’s sprawling healthcare bureaucracy, likened the situation to a “toxic cocktail” in which patients “feel reluctant to complain, because they can fear it will affect the care they get.”
 
And when patients or caregivers muster the courage to ask questions, they are met with a bureaucratic complaints process and doctors who fail to properly communicate with them, Mellor said in an interview with London's Daily Telegraph.
 
In one case, a woman was advised to complain in writing about concerns that her mother was not being washed or helped to go to the bathroom in the hospital.
 
She was told that her complaint would be acknowledged within 28 days. “My mum could have died in that amount of time,” the woman told investigators.
 
In another case, the parents of a son with severe learning disabilities, who died after complications following removal of a tumor, said their child might have survived if doctors had listened to their concerns and noted all the symptoms.
 
A study by the ombudsman found that staff is reluctant to properly investigate complaints because they are afraid to get punished for admitting mistakes, to challenge the NHS hierarchy, or to draw attention to failings by more senior colleagues.
 
A new report by the ombudsman, who investigates complaints when hospitals are accused of failing to properly respond to them, calls for sweeping changes so that concerns are acted on promptly before care is jeopardized.
 
They include:
 
* Providing access to a free patients’ advice service 24 hours a day;
* Giving each patient the name of a senior staff person as the first contact for concerns about care;
* Measuring feedback from patients so hospitals can compare their handling of complaints and make improvements;
 
Mellor, who became ombudsman last year, acknowledges that the problems facing the NHS remain steep. In July she promised there would be a ten-fold increase in the number of cases the ombudsman examines. But this would still mean that only one in 10 complaints would be fully investigated.
 
That is why it is “crucial” that hospitals improve their own systems to respond to the concerns of patients and family, she said.

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Britain’s hospitals are plagued by a culture of fear and defensiveness that leaves patients and family members afraid to raise concerns about poor-quality care for fear of retaliation, according National Health Service (NHS) Ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor
britain,healthcare,service,problems
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2013-46-14
Wednesday, 14 Aug 2013 10:46 AM
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