NHS failings lead to compensation pay-outs

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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, a new report claims.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s latest snapshot of investigations includes cases about grieving parents and partners not being given answers as to why their loved ones died and mistakes not being recognised.

If mistakes are made, an open and frank apology should be given and action should be taken to stop it from happening again

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

It all means much needed service improvements are being delayed.

The latest snapshot of cases 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.

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

The hospital trust also took action to learn from the failings and ensure 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 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:

A man who became paraplegic after a road traffic accident was wrongly refused IVF treatment by the NHS. (South East).

The next of kin were not informed by a hospital that a patient had died, denying them the chance to go to the funeral, due to a series of errors by the hospital trust and a council. The trust and council apologised to his sister, who complained, paid her £650 in recognition of the distress caused and for the loss of opportunity to attend her brother’s funeral and a further £374 to cover the two months when bills were unnecessarily paid by his estate. (London)

The trial of a man accused of threatening a mother and her teenage daughter with sexual violence collapsed, because the Crown Prosecution Service failed to inform the mother of the date of the court hearing. This meant she did not attend the court hearing and the CPS prosecutor offered no evidence which resulted in the alleged offender being acquitted.

Hospital took 72 weeks to arrange hip surgery on straightforward case, leaving patient in unnecessary pain, 17 months after she was first referred by her GP. The trust apologised, paid her £2,500 and took action to stop it from happening again. (North Staffordshire)

A hospital trust communicated with a grieving family via its solicitors when they complained about the end of life care their father received when he had terminal cancer. Following our investigation, the trust apologised for the distress caused. (Lincolnshire).

A failure to x-ray a child’s teeth led to root canal treatment. The practice acknowledged and apologised for the failings. It paid £2,600 for the cost for of the private root canal treatment he had and paid him £750 in recognition of the impact of the failings. (London)

A GP practice failed to urgently refer patient to a neurologist leading to a long delay in diagnosing his Motor Neurone Disease. The practice apologised, took action to stop it from happening again and paid his daughter £4,000 in recognition of the impact the failings had on the daughter. (Greater Manchester).

A war pensioner had to wait 18 months for travel expenses to be paid by the NHS for trips to have an artificial limb fitted. The NHS Business Services Authority apologised, took action to help prevent it from happening again and paid him £600 in recognition of the frustration and inconvenience caused. .

Hospital trust incorrectly diagnosed a woman with schizophrenia. The trust acknowledged and apologised for the misdiagnosis and paid her £7,500 in recognition of the injustice she suffered. (Hertfordshire).

A dental practice’s failure to diagnose decay in a child’s teeth over a three-year period, resulted in her having four teeth extracted and a crown inserted. The practice apologised and paid the family £5,150 in recognition of the pain and discomfort the extractions and the crown caused, and to enable her to have implants fitted to replace the lost teeth. (Cornwall)