This question highlights the shattering of trust Scott Morrish experienced following the tragic death of his son Sam in 2010.
On 30th November I attended the first ever Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Open Meeting in Manchester.
Scott’s speech formed a central part of the open meeting that had been called by the PHSO in order to improve their transparency, and was a powerful reminder of the devastating impact mistakes in the NHS can have and how painful going through a complaints process can be.
Sam Morrish died of sepsis following a series of mistakes by healthcare professionals. It took four long investigations before the truth about what happened was finally revealed.
Sam’s father spoke of his frustration, anger and despair following the death of his son and the lack of accountability throughout the complaints process. His trust in the NHS was shattered because questions about his son’s care were not answered and because the complaints process was not fit for purpose.
The PHSO are the very last resort for those making complaints about the NHS and complainants only come to the ombudsman once every other avenue has been exhausted.
The PHSO received over 120,000 enquiries in 2016-17 and investigated 4,239 complaints.
This represents a 10 fold increase in the last five years with only 410 complaints being investigated in 2011-12.
Of the complaints that are investigated around a third are upheld. This usually results in acknowledgment and apologies from the NHS service provider involved and measures put in place to prevent the same mistake happening again. Sometimes compensation is paid out to complainants.
The open meeting was held as part of the PHSO’s five year improvement plans that have had accountability and transparency at their centre. It certainly was refreshing to have such an open environment for finding out about the organisation with discussion and questions from complainants and NHS complaints handlers alike. I hope they continue with this approach.
Fortunately, the vast majority of the concerns or complaints about services in Sheffield are handled well at local level.
Healthwatch Sheffield works closely with the Sheffield Advocacy Hub and the patient experience teams at the hospital trusts to ensure that complaints are dealt with sensitively and transparently.
However, it is reassuring that if the PHSO needs to investigate a complaint, they see the importance of being a professional and open organisation. In the spirit of openness, the meeting was streamed on the PHSO youtube channel. You can also hear a podcast featuring a candid discussion between the current Ombudsman, Rob Behrens and Scott Morrish.
If you need help or advice to make a complaint, VoiceAbility Sheffield deliver NHS Complaints Advocacy and Care Act Advocacy through the Sheffield Advocacy Hub website.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman also have a website for more information.