Complaints to ombudsman about Lincolnshire hospitals trust increase

Grantham Hospital.
Grantham Hospital.
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Complaints to the health ombudsman about the trust which runs three of the county’s hospitals have increased.

A report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman says she received 134 complaints in 2014-15 about United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) compared to 94 for the previous year.

This year the ombudsman accepted 19 complaints for investigation compared to 14 the previous year. It upheld 11 of these compared to five in 2013-14.

The number of complaints about ULHT accepted for investigation per 100,000 clinical episodes was 5.98. The national average is 6.2.

ULHT is responsible for the management of Grantham, Lincoln and Boston hospitals. Ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor says the key purpose of the report is to allow hospital trusts to consider what the data says about their complaints system.

Dame Julie said: “We believe all complaints offer an insight into how trusts are performing. However, there are many factors that influence the number of complaints that different health organisations receive. These include the size of the organisation, the specialisms it deals with, patients’ demographics and ease of access to a complaints service. If complaints data is to be useful and encourage learning, it is important that this context is taken into account.”

Coun Ray Wootten, who represents Grantham North, said he was “very concerned” that the number of complaints to the ombudsman had increased.

Coun Wootten said: “Complaints is an issue that I regularly challenge the Trust on at its board meetings. What is disappointing is that it is estimated that 51 per cent of Trust patients/relatives are unhappy with the service they receive but do not make a complaint.

“The report highlights across all the Trusts that the most complaints refer to attitude of staff 21 per cent, clinical care 38 per cent, and poor communication 43 per cent. These figures reflect the type of complaints that the ULHT receive which are focused mainly at Lincoln Hospital. I regularly hear of patients’ frustration on waiting to be seen at outpatients in Lincoln and on how busy the hospital is.”

Coun Wootten added: “In September’s Trust report it was minuted that the A&E was receiving a high volume of attendees which leads to waiting times being breached and frustration on behalf of patients and relatives. The ULHT receives complaints which during 2015 have been as low as 51 in May and high as 80 in March and July. The Trust needs to get a grip on these complaints and deal with them as soon as possible. At the last report there were 439 cases still open. I will be putting residents’ concerns to the Trust at the AGM and next board meeting.”

Pauleen Pratt, Acting Chief Nurse at ULHT, said: “As mentioned in the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman report, interpreting the data should be done with caution.

“Any issues with the care of our patients are taken very seriously. While we know there is still more to do, we have made huge progress in the last few years on improving the quality of our services and how we deal with complaints and other feedback from patients and their families. This was highlighted at our last CQC inspection.

“Since early 2014, our staff have championed a new approach to handling complaints called See It My Way. In August, Dame Julie Mellor from the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) praised See it my Way when she visited the Trust. She was impressed by our focus on improving the complaints system by looking at it from the patient’s perspective. Following her visit, ULHT has been selected as a good practice case study to demonstrate the progress we have made.”