John Womersley: NHS is failing to act on complaints

Since I retired as an NHS consultant I have spent much time helping individuals to access the services they need. In doing so I have frequently drawn the attention of Glasgow Health Board to deficiencies that require to be remedied, but with no success.

A Patient Rights Bill now before the Scottish Parliament aims to enshrine in legislation the right to complain – with the appointment of 60-85 patient rights officers at a cost of over 2 million a year. This Bill is vigorously promoted by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing despite the fact that the parliamentary Health Committee, on the basis of evidence from professional and patient groups, is "not persuaded that legislation is the most appropriate way of promoting patient rights", support for it being described as "minuscule".

In May, the same Health Committee reported "NHS Board managers employing staff in jobs of no productive value, things being allowed to drift, and mechanisms for holding NHS Boards to account not addressing efficiency". The Cabinet Secretary curtly challenged the findings.

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Ignoring evidence from well-researched reports, patients, patient groups and front-line staff appears to be the rule in the NHS – at health board and central government level. The likely reason is that unsolicited evidence too often conflicts with what managers and politicians believe or want. Evidence interferes with their beloved planning processes. Even so, what is the point of setting up expensive processes to encourage complaints when the culture in health boards is one of rebuttal and denial of any failing?

The present financial climate provides an opportunity to review the megalithic NHS structure and also the many constituent and associated mini-bureaucracies established in recent years. The last thing patients (and the NHS) need is the imposition of yet another bureaucracy that will do nothing to improve patient health, care, or satisfaction, and will only frustrate those it is supposed to benefit.

• John Womersley is a retired consultant in public health medicine.