Hospital trusts at fault for ‘poor communication and diagnosis errors’ as complaints reach national watchdog

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Errors in diagnosis, poor treatment and lacklustre communication by hospital trusts have been blamed for rising numbers of complaints reaching a health service watchdog.

The criticism came as part of a new report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which shows that it received 8,853 enquiries relating to hospital trust complaints last year – an increase of around 700 when compared to 2013-14.

The ombudsman investigated more than double the amount of complaints last year, partially or fully upholding over 720 complaints that were not dealt with properly by trusts.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) saw ombudsman enquiries rise from 118 to 129 and the number of upheld complaints double from three to six amid increasing demand that saw it record 30,000 more ‘clinical episodes’, relating to hospital admissions and outpatient attendances, than in the year previous. The trust claims it still “compares favourably with trusts of a similar size”.

Rachael Maskell, York Central MP and former head of health at trade union Unite, claims Yorkshire’s rocketing bill for agency staff, which hit £50million in Leeds and Wakefield last year, is partly to blame.

“We know services are incredibly stretched and the use of agency staff means you haven’t got the consistent authority and disciplinary systems in place,” she said.

Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust saw a slight increase in enquiries from 67 to 73, but nine complaints were upheld compared to just one the year previous amid increasing demand. The trust said it is committed to improving the “quality of services, care and experience”.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor urged NHS leaders to welcome patient feedback to help improve services.