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My thoughts on the recent review into quality of NHS complaints handling

A recent review by the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman into the quality of NHS investigations of complaints regarding allegations of avoidable harm or death found that 40% of the initial investigations were not good enough as outlined by the recent BBC news article.

Where a patient receives what they believe to be inadequate care or treatment within the NHS they are able to make a formal complaint and request that the matter be investigated. Currently it is the same Trust who the patient is complaining about who conduct the investigation, a situation which is noted to unsatisfactory by Roy Lilley, a former NHS trust chairman as he has suggested that such investigations ought to be conducted by independent bodies.

Here at PotterReesDolan we unfortunately see situations where patients have suffered avoidable harm as a result of failures in their care and treatment. Such failures are often not identified or acknowledged by the Trusts themselves and the patients are forced to seek legal representation in order to obtain answers to what happened and an apology.

The fact that the Ombudsman found 40% of NHS investigations were inadequate is shocking and a worryingly high statistic as it could mean that 40% of patients who have had cause to complain have not been provided with a full explanation of exactly what happened. We understand that where individuals have suffered avoidable harm at the hands of the NHS the first thing they often want is a full and frank explanation and, if appropriate, an apology. However this does not seem to be happening and perhaps more patients will seek legal advice to try and get to the bottom of what went wrong in their care and treatment.

During the course of our investigations on behalf of patients who have suffered harm through treatment and care provided by both the NHS and private medical professionals, we obtain medical records and often independent medical advice which enables us to outline exactly what happened to the patient, and what, if anything, went wrong.

We are often told by our clients that one of the most important things they obtain by going through the legal process is clarity about their treatment and an understanding of the events in question. Unfortunately it seems that the legal process continues to remain the only way of obtaining such clarity and understanding for many patients if the figures suggested by the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman continue.