‘Silent majority’ of older people do not complain about substandard care

No junior doctors will be surprised. Neither will GPs. We all want to work for an organisation we can be proud of. Nobody wants to strike (Junior doctors likely..). We constantly hear “I could not understand the doctor”, and GPs no longer even discuss this; they just nod their head in sympathy. That we ALL need an advocate if we happen to be admitted to a District General Hospital and are unable to represent ourselves is a shame. It needs to be acknowledged in the political world. Perhaps a debate on overt rationing will follow.

The Guardian reports 30th December 2015: ‘Silent majority’ of older people do not complain about substandard care – More than half of over-65s who have faced problems did not complain as they feared it might impact treatment, ombudsman finds

Older people are reluctant to make complaints about substandard healthcare – or do not know how to go about doing so – and could be suffering in silence, according to a report by the parliamentary and health service ombudsman.

It found 56% of people over 65 who had experienced a problem had not complained because they were worried about how it might impact their future treatment. Almost one in five did not know how to raise a potential complaint, while about a third felt that complaining would not make any difference.

The authors of the report, published on Wednesday, were told by one carer in Manchester: “When people have a problem they don’t know where to go. They are referred to a computer which they don’t have, they are referred to a library which is too far away to get to … [and] they wouldn’t know what to do anyway.”

The research was based on a national survey of almost 700 people over 65, as well as focus groups and case studies.

Julie Mellor, parliamentary and health service ombudsman, said: “Older people are some of the most frequent and vulnerable users of health and social care services but are the silent majority when it comes to complaining.”

She added: “Their reluctance to complain could mean that they are suffering in silence and could lead to missed opportunities to improve the service for others.”

The research is a cause for concern and it is vital every hospital patient or healthcare client feels any potential complaints will be properly addressed, according to Age UK.

The charity’s director, Caroline Abrahams, said: “Patient feedback is a great barometer of the quality of care and this report suggests hospitals need to do much more to reassure older patients that they can complain if they need to, free from fear.”

She added: “Seeking and responding to older people’s views and experiences is crucial if we’re to prevent future care scandals like those that have too often blighted our hospitals and care homes in recent years.”

The report urged action, particularly because of Britain’s ageing population. By 2030, about one in 10 people in the UK will be 75 or over, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The report recommended a more concerted approach from NHS providers, which it said need to make sure all patients are aware of how to complain and reassure them there would be no repercussions.

Commissioners of healthcare should also use the ombudsman’s complaint-handling guidelines, My Expectations, as a way of measuring their own performance, the report recommended.

The report also pointed out progress was being made, including steps by the government to explore options for a new streamlined public ombudsman service to handle complaints.

A universal, independent complaints advocacy service that was easy to find and simple to use would improve the situation, Healthwatch England said.

A spokesman said: “We know the NHS is under pressure at this time of year, it is therefore vital that if things do go wrong patients are informed how to raise concerns and how to get help to do so if they need it.

“Without this support, thousands of incidents will continue to go under the radar every year and mistakes will never be learnt from.”

The group said there was support available for those who feel let down by the NHS, but added: “When it comes to care homes and home care services there is little to no complaints support at all, leaving very vulnerable adults with little protection.”

Plan your hospital advocate…. NHSreality warned you that it was happening near you. The problems of Mid Staffs and Sussex Mental Health services are endemic, and Christmas is not a time to be ill..

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This entry was posted in A Personal View, Rationing, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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