PHSO - People not given answers when they complain to NHS, latest ombudsman report reveals

2 Mar 2016 12:53 PM

Some people who complain to the NHS are not getting the answers they desperately need meaning they are forced to bring their complaints to the Ombudsman service to get answers.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's latest snapshot of cases it has investigated includes cases about grieving parents and partners not being given answers as to why their loved ones died and mistakes not being admitted, which means that much needed service improvements are being delayed.

The latest snapshot of cases published today details how one family was forced to bring their complaint to the Ombudsman service, after their nine-year-old son died of sepsis after he was wrongly discharged from hospital.

Our investigation found that his death could have been avoided if he received the right care and treatment. Following our investigation, the trust provided the parents with an open and honest acknowledgement of the failings, apologised and paid them £15,000 recognising that the death of their son was avoidable. 

The hospital trust also took action to learn from the failings and to ensure that they did not happen to someone else.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: 

'The NHS provides an excellent  service for thousands of people every day, which is why when mistakes are made it is so important that they are dealt with well.

'When people complain to public services they deserve answers. If mistakes are made, an open and frank apology should be given and action should be taken to stop it from happening again.

Unfortunately we are seeing far too many cases where grieving families are not being given answers when they complaint to the NHS, forcing them to endure more anguish and distress.'

The report contains a snapshot of unresolved complaints brought to the Ombudsman service for investigation. They cover the NHS in England and UK government departments and other public bodies, such as the Crown Prosecution Service.

Most of the summaries published are of complaints upheld or partly upheld. These are the cases which provide clear and valuable lessons for public services by showing what needs to changed to help avoid the same mistake happening again, including complaints about failures to spot serious illnesses and mistakes by government departments which caused people financial hardship. 

Cases include: 

The report contains a snapshot of 40 case summaries of the 544 investigations of unresolved complaints the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman completed investigating in April and May 2015.

Approximately 80% of the cases investigated by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman are about the NHS and the rest are about UK government departments and other organisations.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigates approximately 4,000 complaints a year and upholds around 37%. When it upholds complaints it makes recommendations for the organisation to put things right if they have not done so already.

Case summaries are published on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's website, and can be searched by entering key words such as cancer, diagnosis and death, as well as by organisation, for example the name of a hospital trust and by location.

This is the seventh report of case summaries published. The first batch was published in August 2014. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman makes final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK government departments and other UK public organisations.

If someone is unhappy about the service they have received from the NHS in England they should first make their complaint to the organisation in question and give them the chance to respond. If they're not happy with how their complaint is dealt with, they can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman by calling 0345 015 4033 or submitting their enquiry online here.

For more information contact Steven Mather on 0300 061 4324 or email or Marina Soteriou on 0300 061 4996 or email