Report Unveils 'Toxic Cocktail' In NHS Hospitals

New research by the Health Service Ombudsman has revealed a "toxic cocktail" within some NHS hospitals.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Dame Julie Mellor added that people often failed to complain because they feared they would receive even worse treatment.

Those who did experienced "a culture of defensiveness" from staff, she explained.

As a result, a report has been compiled which calls for changes to be made and patient concerns to be acted on swiftly.

The improvements include:

  • Moving towards an open culture of feedback and improvement

  • A fresh focus on putting things right on the ward

  • Replacing deference and hierarchy in hospitals with a new culture of collaboration between leaders and staff to listen to concerns and improve services.

The ideas are based on the views of patients, families, carers and NHS staff who attended a recent workshop held by the Ombudsman Service in London. Many listed poor communication as a key issue, as well as a "defensive culture" once a complaint was made.

For example, it was revealed that one carer's complaint went 'back and forth' for two weeks, but once she threatened to involve the CEO or the media, her complaint was dealt with within the hour.

For staff, issues that were raised included a fear of being blamed rather than acknowledged for listening and putting things right, a confusing variation in complaints procedure between hospitals, too much deference to senior colleagues on wards, and a need for more training on responding to complaints.

Health Service Ombudsman, Julie Mellor, said: "There has been much said about what is wrong since Mid Staffs. But, we have now identified what can be done to make things better. This research – the first of its kind – brings together patients, carers and frontline staff in designing a new model that works for everyone.

"The strong message was the need for a step change in the culture from defensiveness to welcoming and seeking feedback, including concerns and complaints, to deliver continuous improvement and the best possible patient care.

"The key themes that come up again and again - those of openness, leadership and culture change – all start with the board and end at the point of delivery on the ward. There is a toxic cocktail of reluctance by patients to complain and defensiveness by hospitals in handling complaints.

"This means concerns and complaints are going unheard or unaddressed. Only strong leadership from boards will deliver the culture change and improvement on wards that we all agree the NHS needs."


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