Bereaved mother sent bill for notes: 'Lamentable' breach of complaints procedures highlights examples of delay and complacency

A WOMAN whose baby son died in mysterious circumstances after several operations, waited eight months for the hospital to offer an explanation - only to be given a bill for his medical notes.

Despite receiving three solicitors' letters, hospital chiefs did nothing to explain the causes of the child's death. They later admitted a 'lamentable' breach of the complaints procedures.

Details of the treatment she received are disclosed in a summary of the latest investigations carried out by the NHS ombudsman. The case is a prime example of the poor handling of complaints, highlighted in his annual report.

The summary records how the baby was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children in Hackney, east London, after he was born without an abdominal wall. Surgeons carried out a series of operations but he died a few weeks later. The woman was told by the consultant paediatrician he did not know the causes of death.

The woman asked for a post- mortem examination and a doctor at her GPs' practice also wrote to the hospital for information. The doctor received a detailed response from the consultant, who also wrote to the woman. However, her letter contained apparent contradictions. By then she had asked solicitors to write to the hospital.

Letters were written to the hospital manager and a bill and the medical records arrived several months later. Only when the ombudsman intervened did the hospital apologise.

Among other cases highlighted in the report were:

A 90-year-old woman with a suspected broken pelvis was kept lying for six hours on a trolley in Ysbyty Hospital, Gwynedd, while waiting for an ambulance to take her to a nursing home.

Nurses made several requests for an ambulance - but failed to refer the matter to senior staff. Ambulance staff did not record the request, nor did they consider it urgent.

A man whose father died weeks after a routine operation was not told the consultant surgeon had suspected cancer some weeks earlier. The consultant, who told the family that surgery would be too painful, did not inform them or hospital staff of his suspicions.

The ombudsman found undue delay, complacency and a lack of knowledge in dealing with the son's complaint.

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