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Elderly neglected by NHS because loved ones won’t complain

 

Elderly patients are being failed by hospitals because their relatives are too scared to complain, a report reveals.

Four in ten adults who have had concerns about the poor care of an elderly loved one admit they have held back from speaking up.

And more than two-thirds of those who did try to complain said it made no difference to the standard of treatment.

The Department of Health says it wants to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world after respondents to a survey said complaining about bad care didn't make a difference

The Department of Health says it wants to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world after respondents to a survey said complaining about bad care didn't make a difference

The Department of Health says it wants to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world after respondents to a survey said complaining about bad care didn’t make a difference

The survey of 600 middle-aged adults by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman also uncovered some harrowing examples of neglect.

One woman said her elderly husband had to dial 999 from a hospital floor after falling over and being unable to summon a doctor or nurse. Others reported their relatives being ‘forgotten’, ‘ignored’ and even laughed at by nurses.

The ombudsman said many older patients were ‘suffering in silence,’ partly because family members were too afraid to raise concerns.

Relatives often worry that making a complaint will only cause further trouble, and lead to their loved one being treated even worse by staff.

Others believe the process is pointless and will not change anything, or do not know how to make a complaint.

Today’s research is based on a survey of 602 adults – mostly aged 50 or over – who were members of the Gransnet social networking site.

They all had an elderly relative who had stayed on a hospital ward within the past 12 months, usually their parents or in-laws, but in some cases spouses.

The health service has repeatedly tried to overhaul its complaints system since a high profile inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal in 2013.

That verdict warned of a ‘culture of fear’ across the NHS, with patients, relatives and staff too afraid to speak up about poor care.

Hospitals have since been told to make it far easier for people to complain by providing the relevant forms and contact details.

The NHS has been trying to improve its complaints procedures since the high-profile inquiry into Mid Staffordshire hospital's 2013 scandal

The NHS has been trying to improve its complaints procedures since the high-profile inquiry into Mid Staffordshire hospital's 2013 scandal

The NHS has been trying to improve its complaints procedures since the high-profile inquiry into Mid Staffordshire hospital’s 2013 scandal

But this research suggests the efforts have had little impact, with campaigners saying there is still a ‘long way to go.’

Some 35 per cent of those surveyed said there had been at least one occasions when they were concerned about their elderly loved one’s treatment.

But only 45 per cent of them complained immediately, with a further 14 per cent raising a concern afterwards, often after the patient had been discharged,

Another 40 per cent did not complain at all as they either feared repercussions, did not want to make a fuss or were not sure how to go about it. Of those who did try and complain, 67 per cent said it made no difference to the standard of care.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: ‘The NHS is a lifeline for many vulnerable older people but, when things go wrong, too many are suffering in silence.

‘I want people to be confident to complain, know their rights, and speak up when things go wrong so that the NHS can learn from mistakes and improve services.

‘NHS staff should make patients and their loved ones aware of how to complain, point them to available support, and make it absolutely clear that their future care will not be compromised.’

Lara Crisp, editor of Gransnet, said: ‘Patients deserve better than this … They should feel that their concerns are taken seriously and addressed properly.

It’s simply not acceptable that over half of people with a concern feel they can’t complain or that it won’t make any difference if they do.’

The survey also found that 28 per cent of relatives did not feel their loved one was given enough help with washing or eating.

These are just some of the concerns exposed by the survey on complaints in the NHS

These are just some of the concerns exposed by the survey on complaints in the NHS

These are just some of the concerns exposed by the survey on complaints in the NHS

A further 19 per cent said patients weren’t treated with dignity or respect and 18 per cent believed they were often in pain. Most were treated on NHS wards but some were looked after in private hospitals.

The Mail has long called for an overhaul to the care as part of our Dignity for the Elderly campaign.

Patients or relatives who want to complain must first go to the hospital directly. There is usually a designated email address or form on their website.

If they are still unhappy 12 months after making their initial complaint, they can go to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman who will investigate further. John Kell, of the Patients Association, said: ‘This research shows that there is still a long way to go before the NHS’s complaints system is readily accessible and inspires confidence in patients, their carers and families – and this seems particularly true in respect of older people.’

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘The experience of being admitted to hospital is always an upsetting time for older people and their families, and difficulties of communication between families and hospital staff only add to what is a stressful experience.

‘Everyone who goes into hospital should feel confident that they will be treated with dignity, and concerns or complaints about their care and treatment will be listened to and properly investigated.’

Editor of Gransnet Lara Crisp says patients deserve better from the NHS

Editor of Gransnet Lara Crisp says patients deserve better from the NHS

Editor of Gransnet Lara Crisp says patients deserve better from the NHS

Last night a Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We are determined to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world, but when things do go wrong, it’s incredibly important to listen to patients’ and families’ complaints or wider feedback.

‘By learning from mistakes we can improve care; this is why we made complaints handling a crucial element of the hospital inspection regime.

‘These findings show more could be done to help older people and families complain; we are clear that organisations should be open about how to complain and clearly communicate the support available to people who need help complaining.’ 

 

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