Advising with empathy and experience

Elderly reluctant to complain about poor health care.


Elderly people are reluctant to make complaints about poor health care or do not know how to, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman says

A report says that 56 per cent of people aged more than 65 who experienced a problem did not complain because of worries about how it might affect future treatment.

It adds that nearly 20 per cent did not know how to raise a complaint while a third felt complaining would make no difference.

Ombudsman, Julie Mellor, said it could mean some are "suffering in silence" and that this could lead to missed opportunities to improve the service for other people.

The findings come from a national survey of almost 700 people aged more than 65, as well as focus groups and case studies.

One carer in Manchester told the report’s authors: "When people have a problem they don't know where to go. They are referred to a computer which they don't have or a library which is too far away to get to and they wouldn't know what to do anyway."

The report recommended a more proactive approach from NHS providers, saying they should ensure all users know how to complain and are reassured there will not be repercussions.

It said progress had been made, including through steps by the government to explore a new streamlined public ombudsman service to handle complaints.

But Age UK said the research findings are a cause for concern. Charity director, Caroline Abrahams, said: "Seeking and responding to older people's views and experiences is crucial if we are to prevent future care scandals like those that have too often blighted our hospitals and care homes in recent years."

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

A spokesman said: "We know the NHS is under pressure and it is 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."