Fall in number of hospital complaints

Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary Accident & Emergency department
Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary Accident & Emergency department

THERE has been a big drop-off in the number of complaints to the ombudsman about Wigan hospitals in the last 12 months.

But more of the cases were accepted for investigation - 14 as opposed to four. Of these one has so far been upheld, eight not upheld and the rest have yet to be resolved.

In a large organisation like Wigan’s hospital trust these are very small numbers. To put them in context, the latest complaints came from 176,796 clinical cases in the borough, and they are keeping with the Greater Manchester trend for 2014-15 of fewer complaints lodged but a larger number proving justified.

But all trusts are of course keen for those numbers to be cut further.

A Wigan WWL spokesman said: “The Trust is pleased to note the significant reduction in inquiries received by the PHSO during 2014/15 which reduced to 25 from 44 in the previous year.

“Of the 25 inquiries received by the PHSO, only 14 of these were accepted for investigation by the PHSO with a request for further information from the Trust. One of these cases was a request for records, however, we understand the complaint in question was not about care provided by our organisation.

“During 2014/15, the PHSO report states that they did not uphold eight cases and that one was partially upheld.

“This provides reassurance that the Trust is responding to the majority of formal complaints through local resolution.”

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 queries investigated by the PHSO; while 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.

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 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 47 complaints about Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, which was more than the previous year’s figure of 31; 129 criticisms about Central Manchester University Hospital, raised slightly from 120; 42 grievances against Salford Royal, which had jumped dramatically from 26; and 45 related to Tameside Hospital, compared with 34 in 2013/14.