Doctors warned on complaints

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WILLIAM REID, the health services ombudsman, warned doctors yesterday that he would 'come down very hard' on any who victimised patients because they complained, writes Celia Hall.

In the report, in which he names health authorities and trusts for the first time, he cites one case in which a consultant dismissed a woman from his care after she had complained. 'The consultant sent her a pe-emptory note. Patients must not be deterred from complaining for fear of retribution.'

Mr Reid criticised some authorities and individual staff for the 'shallow' way in which they dealt with patients' complaints.

In one case, he says, 'an elderly woman was worried that she might have been given an intimate examination by an unqualified person. Her initial complaint to the consultant was ignored'. Doctors and health authorities who subsequently ignore Mr Reid's recommendations can be asked to explain themselves before a select committee of MPs.

Tom Sackville, the health minister, said yesterday that the case highlighted by Mr Reid, while 'very rare and quite unrepresentative' of most people's experience of the NHS, 'fell far short of the standards of care we should expect'.

Report of the Health Service Commissioner: First Report Session 1993-94; HMSO; pounds 17.20.