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NHS failing to answer patients’ questions, warns Ombudsman

Missed fatal sepsis case prompted family to contact Ombudsman

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 01 March 2016

The NHS too often fails to answer patients’ questions and forces them to contact the Ombudsman service for answers, according to a report* published today.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's latest snapshot of cases report included many cases where questions about mistakes or oversights by the health service were unanswered by the NHS itself.

The report contains a snapshot of 40 case summaries of the 544 investigations of unresolved complaints that the Ombudsman completed investigating in April, May and June 2015.

Around 80% of the cases investigated by the Ombudsman are about the NHS and the rest are about UK government departments and other organisations.

The latest cases included that of one family that was forced to bring their complaint to the Ombudsman service, following the death of their nine-year-old son from sepsis after he was wrongly discharged from hospital.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found that his death could have been avoided if he had received the right care and treatment.

Following the investigation, the Merseyside trust involved provided the parents with an open and honest acknowledgement of the failings, apologised and paid them £15,000 recognising that the death of their son was avoidable.

The hospital trust also took action to learn from the failings and to ensure that they did not happen to someone else.

In another case, a GP practice in Greater Manchester failed to urgently refer a patient to a neurologist, leading to a long delay in diagnosing his motor neurone disease.

Following investigation, the practice apologised, took action to stop it from happening again and paid his daughter £4,000 in recognition of the impact the failings had on the daughter.

Another case detailed was that of a hospital taking 72 weeks to arrange hip surgery on a straightforward case, leaving the patient in unnecessary pain, 17 months after she was first referred by her GP.

Following the investigation, the trust in North Staffordshire apologised, paid her £2,500 and took action to stop it from happening again.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “The NHS provides an excellent  service for thousands of people every day, which is why when mistakes are made it is so important that they are dealt with well.

“When people complain to public services they deserve answers. If mistakes are made, an open and frank apology should be given and action should be taken to stop it from happening again.

“Unfortunately we are seeing far too many cases where grieving families are not being given answers when they complaint to the NHS, forcing them to endure more anguish and distress.”


* Report on selected summaries of investigations by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman - April to June 2015.

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