Statistics show hospital bosses failed to resolve complaints

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BOSSES at East Sussex’s two hospitals failed to satisfactorily resolve more than 50 complaints from patients in the last year, according to a new Government health report.

The statistics were revealed by the Health Service Ombudsman in a report which looked at how the NHS handles complaints across the country.

Entitled Listening and Learning: the Ombudsman’s review of complaint handling by the NHS in England 2010-11, it details information about complaints the NHS has failed to resolve locally.

It was the second year the report had been compiled following on from 2009/10.

The Ombudsman received 56 complaints about East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which is responsible for the Conquest and Eastbourne General. Last year the Trust received 54 complaints.

East Sussex Downs and Weald PCT had 41 complaints filed against it which was six less than last year.

The Ombudsman receieved 23 complaints about Hastings and Rother Primary Care Trust compared to 14 last year. Across the country, the highest number of complaints were recorded against the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham with 171.

Where complaints were received the Ombudsman asked the Trusts to apologise and put matters right quickly and effectively without the need for a formal investigation.

East Sussex Downs PCT had two formal investigations reported upon but neither was upheld by the Ombudsman. East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust had four investigations reported upon with one fully upheld.

Hastings and Rother PCT had one investigation reported upon which was fully upheld.

Health Service Ombudsman Ann Abraham described the progress the NHS is making to improve the way it deals with patients’ complaints as “patchy and slow.”

In the report she states the NHS is still not dealing adequately with the most straightforward matters and that too many minor disputes are escalated to her office before they are resolved.

Jamie Whitburn, spokesman for NHS Sussex, the health body that now covers Hastings and Rother PCT, and East Sussex Downs and Weald PCT said: “We take every complaint seriously and learn from them to help us to improve the services we commission.

“Our aim is always to try to resolve a complaint locally but there are times when a complainant is not fully satisfied with the outcome of an investigation. When this happens we encourage the complainant to contact the Ombudsman.”

Tom Gurney, spokesman for the East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The Trust encourages people to provide feedback on any aspect of our service and takes all concerns raised by patients, carers and visitors to the hospitals seriously.

“We strive and do everything we can to resolve any concerns people may have as quickly as possible. We take the recommendations of the ombudsman seriously and act upon them. All feedback provides a valuable opportunity for us to learn from the experience of patients, carers and visitors, and allows us to improve the service we offer.”