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Hospital Healthcare Europe

Lessons learned from poor service

13 June, 2008  

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has been urged to improve the way it handles complaints after a number of cases highlighted issues including poor communication, poor record keeping and serious clinical failings.

Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), made the call as she outlined the findings of a new report – Remedy in the NHS. In the report, Ms Abraham summarises 12 NHS cases previously investigated by her office, highlighting examples of both good and bad practice in dealing with complaints.

The document is the first in a series of reports aimed at giving complainants and the NHS a clear understanding of how the PHSO approaches complaints. It touches on a wide range of issues, from failings in service provision to failings in complaint handling.

The report pointed to examples of poor record keeping and poor communication with patients, relatives and carers to more serious clinical failings and, in one case, an avoidable death.

“Many of the cases in this collection highlight the value of a sincere and timely apology, together with a well reasoned explanation of what went wrong,” Ms Abraham said.

“I’m aware there can be reputational risks for NHS bodies associated with my investigations, but I will not hesitate to draw attention to the bodies involved so that poor service can be identified and lessons learnt.”

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Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman