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Ombudsman report details ‘shocking’ failures by NHS

Hospitals are sending patients home too early and missing cancer diagnosis opportunities, according to a report from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman that details “devastating” and “shocking” failures by the NHS.

Dame Julie Mellor said that the failures were putting patients at serious risk and placing a “massive cost” on the NHS for emergency readmissions.

The report comprises anonymised summaries of 161 investigations carried out between April and June this year.

Dame Julie Mellor said: "These investigations highlight the devastating impact failures in public services can have on the lives of individuals and their families.

"A shocking case that stood out was that of a one-day-old baby who suffered permanent brain damage at Barts Health NHS Trust in London because a nurse and two doctors made serious mistakes during a blood transfusion.

"We are increasingly concerned about patients being discharged unsafely from hospital. Unplanned admissions and readmissions are a massive cost to the NHS.

"We are publishing these summaries so public services, MPs and members of the public can see the different types of complaints we look into, our findings and recommendations. I hope this will give people with concerns about the service they have received the confidence to come to us to complain. We also want to provide valuable lessons for public services, and show how complaining makes a positive difference to them."

In one case, a woman who had surgery at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS FT was told she had cancer in her stomach and bowel and would need cancer treatment and further tests, but staff did not arrange these. She then saw a surgical consultant, who said there was no cancer whatsoever. Five weeks later the surgical consultant told her she did in fact have cancer.

In another complaint a man who attended a Bedford Hospital NHS Trust A&E with nausea, vomiting and not opening his bowels for three days was inappropriately sent home. The following day he was admitted to hospital where surgery found he had a complete loss of blood supply to his small bowel.

In a case at East Kent Hospitals University NHS FT, a confused 84-year-old woman who was admitted with a urine infection was told by a consultant she would stay in hospital to be treated with antibiotics for three days. She was then discharged the same day, without notifying her family, to an empty home without medication and a catheter still in place.

At Mid Essex Hospital trust a man diagnosed with cancer and told it was inoperable by doctors, he was offered only palliative care to relieve his symptoms. When he asked for a second opinion to see if there was any hope of treatment to save his life, he was told by hospital staff that such actions were “pointless”. Nevertheless, he managed to arrange a consultation with a private hospital, where doctors carried out further tests and told him that in fact his condition was operable. Surgery at a private hospital was successful and the trust agreed to refund the £12,000 costs of private healthcare, and paid him £500 for the “inconvenience and distress” caused by their failings.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "The NHS is the most transparent it has ever been — and we're focusing on confronting poor care like never before. That's why in our response to the Francis Report on Mid Staffs we made it clear that we want the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman to investigate more cases so lessons can be learnt and patient care improves.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Phil   01/11/2014 at 00:08

There are other areas where the NHS provides very poor service. My son is five and has suffered from hearing and speech problems for three years. It took almost a year for him to get grommets fitted and his follow up appointment was re-scheduled 3 times meaning he wasn't seen by a consultant until 5 months after his surgery. He's meant to be getting support with speech therapy but his therapist is so busy she can only see him once every couple of months so we're now paying a fortune for private weekly sessions. He's started school but really struggles with socialisation we waited over two months to get an educational psychologist appointment and now have no idea when the follow up will be. I've also tried to get him seen because I think he needs his adenoids removing but despite two referrals from my GP and me chasing the hospital, I've been waiting since April and still haven't got an appointment. I grew up in France and the public health sector there is so much better. The NHS feels like it's a failing service, mainly because they haven 't got enough resource to adequately cover people 's needs

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