Health ombudsman criticises 'insincere apologies and unclear explanations' over NHS mistakes

 

Complaints to the NHS about the failure of doctors, nurses or managers to admit mistakes or apologise when things go wrong have leapt by 50 per cent in a year. Almost four out of five were upheld.

A report by the health service ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor, published today, says “careless communication, insincere apologies and unclear explanations” are unacceptable.

“A poor response to a complaint can add to the problems of someone who is unwell, struggling to take care of others or grieving. The NHS needs to get better at listening to patients and their families and responding to their concerns.”

Almost four out of five of the complaints about the NHS’s failure to acknowledge its mistakes were upheld. “Each complaint that is not fully addressed is a missed opportunity for the NHS to improve,” the report says.

Common problems with NHS responses were the use of equivocal or technical language, getting facts wrong and the use of false apologies such as “I’m sorry you feel the care wasn’t good enough.”

In one case a man with malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, was misdiagnosed by his GP practice six times but was unable to get the practice to acknowledge their failings when he complained.

In another case, a man who expressed anxiety about having a general anaesthetic before an operation was told by the surgeon he was being a “baby” and patted on the chest. When he complained about being patronised he did not get a full apology until the ombudsman intervened.

 The ombudsman also found a sharp 16 per cent increase in cases of GPs unfairly striking patients off their list, despite issuing a warning about the practice a year ago.

GPs are expected to follow British Medical Association guidance on dealing with “difficult” patients by warning them their behaviour is putting them at risk of removal, setting out clearly what is going wrong (eg missing appointments without cancelling) and explaining what they must do to avoid removal.

  The report says that GPs’ “failure to improve” in this area “gives us wider concerns” that as GPs take on wider responsibilities for commissioning care under the Health and Social Care Act their complaint handling may suffer.

In all, the NHS received 150,000 complaints in 2011-12, up 1.3 per cent on the previous year. Most complaints were made in London (40 per 100,000 inhabitants), and fewest in the north east (21 per 100,000).

The most complained about NHS organisation was Barking, Havering and Redbridge  University Hospitals NHS Trust, which was the subject of a highly critical report from the NHS watchdog, the Care Quality Commission in October last year. It found poor care in the maternity department, abusive and unprofessional behaviour from staff and long waits and lack of staff in A&E.

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “The vast majority of NHS patients are happy with the care they receive, but if things go wrong, some NHS organisations respond to complaints better than others. This is something that the NHS must improve.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Written protest: Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, has sent an open letter to the Culture Secretary
books
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Sport
footballDoes Hodgson's England team have an identity yet?
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss