Complaints against St Helens and Whiston hospitals on the rise

St Helens and Knowsley chief executive 'Ann Marr chief executive outside Whiston Hospital. Complaints against the trust are increasing

St Helens and Knowsley chief executive 'Ann Marr chief executive outside Whiston Hospital. Complaints against the trust are increasing

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Hospital chiefs in St Helens received an increasing number of complaints last year, a health watchdog has revealed.

A report published by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) in the last financial year (2014-15) shows that St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust had 38 grievances reported to the ombudsman, which is higher than the previous year’s figure of 25.

However, out of 195,554 clinical cases, this equates to fewer than one per cent of patients.

Of these, the Ombudsman accepted for 10 investigation, two were upheld and three were not upheld. The rest are ongoing.

A Trust spokesman said: “In 2014/15 we saw a six per cent increase in activity across the Trust and treated almost 500,000 patients. In that time the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman upheld two complaints; the same figure as in 2013/14. This accounts for 0.005 per cent of clinical episodes which is low compared to similar organisations.

“This is a result of the continued hard work of our staff, our positive approach to complaints and our commitment to delivering 5 star patient care at all times.”

The national report reveals that the top three reasons for complaints were lack of communication, errors in diagnosis and poor treatment.

Non-medical aspects of patient care are cited as a factor in almost half of all complaints investigated by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman; whilst poor communication, including quality and accuracy of information, was a factor in one third of all complaints.

Other reasons for grievances in this period included staff attitude and behaviour, which were factors in two out of 10 problems.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “There are many factors that influence the number of complaints hospitals receive, such as organisational size, demographics and whether they actively encourage feedback from patients.

“I strongly believe that NHS leaders should welcome feedback from patients and recognise the opportunities that good complaint handling offers to improve the services they provide.

“We are publishing this data to help hospital trusts identify problems and take action to ensure trust in the healthcare system remains high.”

The report compares the number of complaints the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigates to the size of each trust, which is determined by the number of ‘clinical incidents’ such as outpatient appointments, elective surgery and emergency admissions the trust has carried out.

The PHSO received 57 complaints about Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust last financial year, which was 10 more than 2013/14; Alder Hay had 18 grievances, three more than the previous year; The Walton Centre had 25 investigations recorded, rising from 12; Warrington and Halton had reduced its complaints, from 66 to the current figure of 52; and Wirral University Teaching Hospitals had 43 queries, slightly more than its previous figure of 49.