Shropshire Star

People who complained at Shropshire hospitals felt 'fobbed off' - watchdog report

Shropshire care providers have been told to ensure that complaints are "taken seriously" after a watchdog reported people who raised concerns felt "fobbed off".

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Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

Healthwatch Shropshire carried out a survey between March and May this year which asked patients about their experiences when making a complaint.

The independent body aims to improve the standard of care people experience in the county.

Of those who completed the survey, 54 people had made a complaint about an NHS service, and seven people about social care.

The most complaints were made about the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital with 22, while 12 people made complaints about their GP practice and nine people made complaints about the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.

Out of the 54 people who complained about their care, 11 people told Healthwatch Shropshire that they waited over a month for an acknowledgement of their complaint.

Seven of those who complained about the Shrewsbury hospital have yet to receive a response, with five more taking between seven and 12 months. Four of the complainants received a response within three months.

Five people who filled out the survey said they had been told about steps the organisation had taken to prevent the incident raised from happening again.

However, 30 respondents felt ‘not confident at all’ or ‘not very confident’ that measures were in place to avoid the incident happening again.

Shropshire councillors will consider the Healthwatch Shropshire report at their meeting on Thursday.

“People told us that they didn’t feel that they were taken seriously or given proper attention, they described feeling ignored, ‘fobbed off’ or that their complaint was not taken seriously by those investigating it,” said Healthwatch Shropshire in a report on their findings.

“People commented on the feeling that organisations were defensive in their approach to their complaint, mentioning a feeling of being ‘lied to’ or just apologised to without explanations.

“People told us about their experiences of using the complaints process and that they felt it was difficult to navigate or confusing.

“Delays were a key theme which many people told us they were concerned about. People told us about their dissatisfaction with the response they received to their complaint.”

Healthwatch Shropshire has made recommendations for health providers that includes making sure complainants are "taken seriously and have been heard".

They have asked providers to "respond openly and honestly to complaints in a language that people can easily understand".

The watchdog have also recommended that providers’ complaints procedures are ‘simplified’ and that a single point of contact is provided.

Healthwatch Shropshire says that delays should be ‘minimised’ and that providers should ‘improve communication and be responsive to the individual needs of people making a complaint’.

The independent body has also recommended that Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Integrated Care System should add public information on its website about the complaints process with necessary contact details of service providers and the local Independent Health Complaints Advocacy services.

Responding to the report, NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin deputy director of nursing and quality, Vanessa Whatley said: “We are sorry to hear that the experience of complaining is difficult for those who access our services, and who contributed to this report.

“We will be discussing these findings in depth with health and social care professionals across the system, and those that experience our care, so that we can work together to make the necessary improvements.”