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NHS complaints system needs overhaul

28th June 2011

A committee of MPs have said "a more open culture" is required to handle complaints about the health service in England.

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The health select committee, which has members from different political parties, said the system should be overhauled to ensure patients who complained were treated fairly.

The committee also criticised the role of the Health Ombudsman and said it was not dealing with enough complaints.

It is only in the last two years that patients have had the opportunity to take their complaints directly to the Health Ombudsman.

Before 2009, the Healthcare Commission reviewed cases and decided whether to refer them up to the Ombudsman or not.

The Healthcare Commission's involvement was stopped as part of an effort to make the process faster and less complex.

However, critics have warned that the new system could be operating at the expense of some complaints.

The Ombudsman carried out official investigations into only 3% of the 15,000 complaints it received during 2009/10, although it did look into more in an unofficial capacity.

The committee's chairman Stephen Dorrell said the ombudsman's current remit excluded a number of cases sent for review.

"Patients should feel entitled to an independent review. That mismatch between patients' expectations and what the ombudsman does in practice needs to be closed," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Health Ombudsman said: "Where our assessment reveals clear evidence of maladministration or injustice, we consider whether we can resolve the issue quickly and effectively through our intervention rather than a full investigation."

 

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