Patients face ‘long delays’ in complaints process

Conquest Hospital, Hastings. SUS-150615-132748001
Conquest Hospital, Hastings. SUS-150615-132748001

‘Long delays’ in dealing with patients’ complaints have been highlighted in a series of reports released by Healthwatch East Sussex.

An independent review of the complaints process for East Sussex Healthcare Trust found some delays lasted more than six months from the initial point of contact.

It also found ‘clinical and formulaic’ responses could lead people to feel they were ‘outside the process’ and not being treated as individuals.

However, the Making Complaints Personal report found responses were ‘generally sympathetic’ and the trust was communicating well with other agencies.

Healthwatch East Sussex, the independent consumer watchdog for health and care, also released two other reports – From special measures to special moments, an overview of maternity services, and Round the clock care, 24 hours in East Sussex acute hospitals.

“Patients told us, that on the whole they were very satisfied with the level of care they received, this also was confirmed when we visited wards and departments,” said a Healthwatch spokesman.

For Round the clock care, Healthwatch spent 24 hours at Eastbourne DGH and the Conquest Hospital, Hastings.

There was ‘largely positive and complimentary’ feedback.

However, ‘potentially avoidable’ attendances at A&E were noted at both hospitals and were ‘more of an issue’ for Eastbourne.

Several people said they had gone to A&E because they ‘just couldn’t get an appointment’ with their GP.

The report also said communication with patients over A&E waiting times needed to ‘significantly improve’.

From special measures to special moments was produced following an online survey and three-day visit to maternity wards at both hospitals.

The report identified areas for improvement which Healthwatch East Sussex would recommend, including ensuring there is a clear protocol in place for the safety of babies and mothers as they travel between the maternity units.

This protocol should be available and communicated to parents so that they can understand where accountability and responsibility lies during this travel time.

Many descriptions of experiences using services across sites included ‘excellent, ‘outstanding’ and ‘faultless’ but it was said more support was required with breast feeding, especially for first time mums who, at times, felt very vulnerable when the unit was extremely busy, particular at the Conquest Hospital.

Many contributors also commented on how the unit at the Conquest) appeared to be understaffed and the members of staff that were on duty, were over worked, but trying their best to deliver a good service.

Following the Care Quality Commission’s inadequate rating last year the trust and Healthwatch agreed to work together on a series of projects to strengthen patient and public engagement.

Healthwatch East Sussex engaged with 570 patients, carers and relatives, as well as hundreds of patients and members of staff during time in the main reception areas.

To view the reports, visit www.healthwatcheastsussex.co.uk/esht.

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