The boss of the Lincolnshire healthcare watchdog has described the current complaints system in the county’s hospitals as “not acceptable.”
Sarah Fletcher, CEO of Healthwatch Lincolnshire, which seeks to represent the views of local residents, was responding to a government report which revealed that the number of complaints in Lincolnshire’s hospitals increased by over 40% in the last year.
In total, 134 complaints against United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) were received by the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman in 2014-2015, making it the seventh most complained about trust in the country.
By contrast, in 2013-2014, there were 94 complaints, or 42% fewer.
The trust is reforming the way it deals with complaints, and has introduced a new process called ‘See It My Way’ which it claims has “put the patient at the heart of every decision.”
New chief executive Jan Sobieraj has also already made a commitment to work with patients in changing hospital services for the better after replacing Jane Lewington.
Despite this, Sarah Fletcher said that she was concerned with the findings of the report.
She said: “The real issue here is about the 134 individuals whose complaints last year were not satisfactorily dealt with by ULHT and the stress for those individuals in having to take their complaint further to the Ombudsman before they receive answers is just not acceptable.
“Whilst Healthwatch Lincolnshire is concerned about any increase in complaints on behalf of patients, families and carers, we feel it’s more about how the trust is learning, and what changes they make as a result.
“We are aware that three complaint teams have been put in place since these figures to deal with complaints and hope these teams are now making all the difference.
“All NHS organisations would do well to listen more to what their patients and carers are saying, only by doing this can they really learn what improvements need to be made and where they are going wrong.”
“There is still more to do”
Pauleen Pratt, Acting Chief Nurse at the trust, urged caution in interpreting the data but said that any issues with the care of patients are taken “very seriously.”
She added: “While we know there is still more to do, we have made huge progress in the last few years on improving the quality of our services and how we deal with complaints and other feedback from patients and their families. This was highlighted at our last CQC inspection.
“In August, Dame Julie Mellor from the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) visited the trust and said she was impressed by our focus on improving the complaints system by looking at it from the patient’s perspective.
“Following her visit, ULHT has been selected as a good practice case study to demonstrate the progress we have made.”