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Lack of transparency on patient complaints risks confidence in the NHS

Public confidence in the health service is being undermined by a lack of transparency from hospitals about patient complaints, the man who led the investigation into one of the NHS’s worst care disasters has warned.

Sir Robert Francis QC, who chaired the public inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal, has called for a new national organisation with powers to set standards on the handling of patient complaints after research found seven in eight hospital trusts do not follow existing rules.

The prominent barrister is now chair of Healthwatch England, a statutory body, which analysed 149 hospitals’ handling of complaints. Under current legislation every hospital is required to collect and report on the number of complaints they receive, what they were about and what action has been taken. Healthwatch England found just 12% of NHS trusts were compliant with all the rules. Only 16% published the required complaints reports while just 38% reported any details about learning or actions taken after a grievance.

Speaking to The Independent, Sir Roberts said better reporting, including the outcome and changes made after a complaint, would create a “collaborative” environment to improving the system with patients and staff alike seeing complaints as a valuable resource.

One persistent problem remained the gap, he said, between hospitals and the national Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. Sir Robert argued commissioners of NHS services should be more involved.

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Source: The Independent, 15 January 2020


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