I was hoping after the Francis report that the one thing that would be improved immediately would be the complaints process. I’m disappointed to say that little has changed within some organisations. I’m still hearing how unfair patients/relatives are being treated and the, deny, delay, defend culture is still prevalent. It’s mostly the smaller District General hospitals that I hear about but not always.
Throughout the Mid Staffs Public Inquiry (MSPI) we heard just how difficult it was for complainants to be heard, for whistle blowers too, but I will come onto that later. Cure the NHS have suggested time and time again that “How to raise your concerns” should be displayed on ward walls, for all to see. Complaints are a rich source of information and an organisation that wants to learn should make it easier for patients and relatives.
I still hear from people who have no idea how to complain and I still hear from complainants being tortured by the response when they have made a complaint. It still seems that case notes are used as the evidence to answer a complaint and very often the ward staff answer their own complaints.
I am not hearing the numbers or the extent of failings that I used to. On occasions, I used to be so inundated with complaints I could hone down to particular wards, even particular shifts within individual hospitals. I’m still hearing from complainants but the failings are more on an individual basis or ward failure and not systemic as I used to hear.
I still hear from complainants who have been involved in the NHS complaints process for many years. Some are still searching for the truth many years after their loved one has been harmed. There’s very little we can do apart from trying to learn from their experience. The opportunity to learn lessons for the organisation has long gone and normally so has the truth as to what did happen. I always remind the group that we are the lucky ones as we have each other. There are many out there who are battling alone and all they want is answers to why they or their loved one suffered.
Cure have recently developed a new approach to the way we handle complaints/concerns. We have been contacting the senior management within the organisation and alerting them to the problems we have been informed about. Most have welcomed the real time feedback and responded well but this approach is only useful to those who are on a ward or who have been a recent patient.
Cure is also developing a new approach when dealing with complaints referred to us that are part of the NHS complaints process. We are hoping it will lead to organisations improving their complaints process. We will soon start publishing edited complaint letters and contrasting them with the hospital response to the concerns raised. We are still working on this but we are hoping to expose those organisations that need to improve the way they handle complaints.
The Government has recently announced that Robert Francis will be heading the “Freedom and responsibility to Speak up” review into whistleblowing within the NHS. At the MSPI we heard how difficult it was for Helene Donnelly an A&E nurse who tried to raise concerns about the way patients were being treated. If you haven’t read any of the evidence to the MSPI, I urge you to read her evidence. It was heart breaking to sit and listen to, but we know she is one of many within the NHS who are treated this way.
We were disappointed along with the whistle blowers themselves that the Government didn’t award a statutory inquiry but a similar thing happened at Mid Staffs. We were given review after review and then an independent inquiry (secret inquiry), finally we were awarded the public inquiry. Reading any of the experiences of those who have tried to raise concerns tells us a wider inquiry is needed with Dr Raj Mattu case and Sharmila Chowdrey being the most recent.
Stories of NHS staff- 12 documented cases of victimised NHS staff
We were invited to a meeting with Robert Francis to discuss the review but sadly no one was able to attend due to holidays, we will update when we know more.
Change is happening in the NHS, getting this review is testament to that but it is slower than we would have wanted. I’m still getting invitations to talk to those in the NHS and as long as they are listening I will keep talking, to try and make the NHS safer.
Leaving you on a positive note I have been talking to more clinical staff taking on leadership roles within the NHS and wards should now be staffed safely. Staff being able to speak out safely would ensure they are.
We are anxious to hear from people with IT & Marketing skills to help us implement our future plans.