More complaints than ever upheld against Scottish NHS
MORE than half the complaints about patient treatment in the National Health Service last year were upheld by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
Upheld complaints in Scotland’s NHS stood at 56 per cent during 2011-12 – a sharp rise on the previous year’s figure of 45 per cent, according to the ombudsman’s annual report.
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) Jim Martin told The Scotsman the dramatic increase in health service complaints was “unconscionable” after he had previously described last year’s 45 per cent level of dissatisfaction as “unacceptable.”
The SPSO is a last resort for complainants and only normally deals with issues if they have not been resolved through formal complaints procedures.
There was also a surge in the overall number of complaints about public services, with the number received by the ombudsman rising by 12 per cent to almost 4,000. Local government had the largest number of complaints dealt with by the ombudsman of any sector in Scotland at 1,497 in 2011-12, with 32 per cent upheld.
Mr Martin said the rise was partly due to the “impact of cutbacks” to services as he warned the effect of cuts in Scotland was “nowhere near” the level he said it would eventually reach.
He said: “We’re beginning to feel the impact of cutbacks in public spending. But we’re nowhere near the full impact, which is why we’ll see more people dissatisfied with services.”
He called on health chiefs to apologise more often to patients and their families after his annual report showed that he had upheld 56 per cent of the 937 complaints about the NHS resolved by his office.
The complaints upheld by Mr Martin included a case where the ombudsman found that a health board failed to provide “appropriate” care and treatment for a patient who committed suicide in the Tayside area.
Mr Martin said: “Last year I described the 45 per cent level of upheld complaints in the health service as “unacceptable”. The figure of 56 per cent is “unconscionable” as it shows that in half the complaints the health boards dealt with they got something wrong.
“It became pretty obvious to me in some cases that the complainant was right and the health board was wrong. If the authorities had taken the time to say they got it wrong then perhaps the patients wouldn’t have had to go through the trauma of making these complaints.”
Labour health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson, a former GP, claimed Scotland’s NHS was “under stress” due to cuts imposed by the SNP government.
Dr Simpson said: “A worrying pattern is emerging. You can’t slash the health budget by a further £319 million and not expect it to have worse consequences.”
Meanwhile, the annual report showed the ombudsman received 3,918 complaints in 2011-12 -– an increase of 12 per cent.
The ombudsman also resolved a total of 3,748 complaints during the past year – 12 per cent more than in 2010-11.
A total of 115 complaints were resolved about Scotland’s higher and further education sector during 2011-12 – the same figure as the previous year.
However, that sector had the largest surge in complaints upheld with the number soaring from 8 per cent to 42 per cent between 2010-11 and 2011-12.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The SPSO should only be used as a last resort, where complaints have not been resolved through the formal complaints process.”
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