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The parliamentary and health service Ombudsman has found that three out of four investigations into complaints at hospitals left the patients and families with no answers.

Investigations into complaints where the patients had suffered avoidable injuries, or had died, failed to identify any failings in care on the part of the medical team.

The ombudsman found that investigations by hospital staff were often so poor that many of the complaints were met with a “wall of silence”.

The Guardian reports that Dame Judy Mellor’s report found that in 73% of cases where there was clear evidence of failings in medical care, the NHS Trust involved concluded that no negligence had occurred.

“Our review found that NHS investigations into complaints about avoidable death and harm are simply not good enough. They are not consistent, reliable or transparent, which means that too many people are being forced to bring their complaint to [the Ombudsman] to get it resolved,” said Mellor.

In over half of the cases that she examined, Mellor found that the investigation was carried out by a doctor who was not independent of the events which were being complained about.

One example stated in the report was of an investigation being lead by a close colleague of a paediatrician, whose mistake left a baby girl with brain damage. The family in this case had to wait three years to find out what mistakes had been made during a blood transfusion, to find out why their child had been left disabled.

It was revealed that one of the main issues with hospital investigations is that they failed to gather enough, or the correct, evidence. Their processes into looking for errors are inconsistent and are not thorough enough.

The Guardian reports that Mellor found that almost a fifth of the inquires conducted by hospitals did not gather important evidence, such as patient’s medical records, statements and interviews.

In investigations where failings had been clearly identified more than a third of complaints managers failed to get to the bottom of why they had occurred in the first place, despite 91% of those managers saying they were confident that they could find out what had happened.

Rob Webster, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, told The Guardian:

“We urgently need to learn from what is working and fix what doesn’t, to ensure patients have complete confidence in the National Health Service.”

This report comes at a time when the NHS is already under a lot of pressure due to the bad weather, understaffing, threats of strike action from junior doctors and a £2bn deficit.

In light of the report Anna Bradley, chair of patient group, Healthwatch, said:

“Hundreds of thousands of incidents of poor care go unreported every year across the NHS precisely because people fear they either won’t be taken seriously or that nothing will change as a result.”

Are you waiting for answers relating to poor care? Do you have a complaint that hasn’t been dealt with probably, or maybe you would like to know how to investigate the death of a loved one? At Pryers we have a team of specialist medical negligence solicitors ready to help you get the answers you deserve.

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