Older people in NHS care may be suffering in silence

  • Posted

Posted 07/04/2014

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The Guardian reported today that older people may be suffering in silence because they are reluctant to complain about the care they receive.

The parliamentary and health service ombudsman (“the Ombudsman”) for England believes over-65s either fear a backlash if they raise issues or do not like making a fuss, meaning that watchdogs are only seeing a small number of serious failings.

The Ombudsman has said that almost 80% of all investigations carried out are about NHS services. Even though nearly half of NHS care and services are given to older people, only a third of the health complaints investigated by the Ombudsman are about the care of older people.

Of the cases reported and investigated, common themes included in the complaints are misdiagnosis, staff attitudes, poor communication with patients and families, and patients not being treated with dignity.

Sophie Bales, medical injury solicitor at Ashtons Legal, comments:

“It is worrying that older people are often reluctant to complain when they receive poor care or treatment under the NHS.

Many of our clients come to us because they find the complaints process confusing and unresponsive. This also deters those who are most vulnerable from raising a complaint, meaning that their concerns go unheard.

The complaints process should be used as a tool to improve care and treatment given to patients. However, this will not be possible until the culture of the NHS changes and becomes more honest and transparent.

This is why campaigners for patients’ rights and supporters of the NHS are calling for a legally enforceable duty of candour applicable across the board. This would mean staff and hospitals are legally obliged to volunteer all relevant information to persons who have or may have been harmed by the provision of NHS services, whether or not a complaint has been made.

Openness and transparency is the only way to ensure that NHS services improve and that patients receive quality care and treatment.”


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