Watchdog warns of 'toxic cocktail' within the NHS

Dame Julie Mellor says patients are afraid to complain

Patients who experience poor care in hospitals are being failed by a “toxic cocktail” within the health service, according to the NHS Ombudsman.

Dame Julie Mellor, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, told The Daily Telegraph that patients sometimes felt too frightened to complain in case it affected their treatment, while those who did met “a culture of defensiveness” from staff.

The NHS Ombudsman investigates complaints if hospitals are thought to not have investigated them throughly.

Dame Julie said that research conducted by the Ombudsman had found that the NHS culture meant too often that those who suffered harm were denied a simple apology.  

She said: “What we found was that there is a toxic cocktail - patients felt reluctant to complain, because they can fear it will affect the care they get - and that if they do, they are met with a culture of defensiveness, where they don't get the explanations they need, and the opportunity is lost to learn really powerful insights, which could improve the NHS.”

Dame Julie is calling for the implementation of new measures so that concerns are acted on more promptly, and action is taken before care is jeopardised, the newspaper said.

These would include access to a free patients' advice service 24 hours a day, and for each patient to be provided the name of a senior staff member, such as a ward sister, as the first contact for concerns.

These have been submitted to an independent review of hospital complaints by Ann Clwyd, a Labour MP who protested about the care her late husband received while he was in hospital last year. The report is due to be published next month.

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