Poor Communication - a Core Complaint for the NHS

For many patients who are unhappy with the treatment they have received from a hospital or GP, the NHS Complaints procedure is the first place they turn in an attempt to resolve the matter. 

However, the health service ombudsman’s review in January 2013, into complaint handling by the NHS, reported that “time and again, poor communication with patients and their families is at the core of what goes wrong.”

According to the 2011 Commons Health Committee report, the NHS complaints system is often ineffective in resolving complaints. The report stated that “the NHS complaints system sometimes compounds and exacerbates the negative experiences of patients. In such situations, patients have little choice but to give up or turn to the legal system.” It also states that “the motivation of complainants is often not to seek compensation for failures of care but rather to have their concerns listened to and acted upon.”

As a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence, I have found that many people seek legal advice when they feel the NHS is not being open or honest in the complaints procedure. Many are left waiting months for a response that often fails to address their concerns and leaves them feeling even more frustrated. Many people do not want to claim compensation, they just want a sincere apology, an explanation of what went wrong and a reassurance that lessons will be learnt.

There has been a great deal of publicity regarding the reforms which are shortly due to come into force that will effectively reduce the compensation patients can recover, in an attempt to cut the number of clinical negligence claims. My experience suggests however, that the most effective way to reduce the amount of claims initiated against that NHS would be the introduction of a more open and honest complaints procedure.