District’s health organisations pledge to work with watchdog

Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital, Brighton
Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital, Brighton

Health services serving West Sussex have received relatively few complaints – according to an independent watchdog’s report.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), which looks into complaints that government agencies have not acted properly on or have provided a poor service, released the figures on Friday.

West Sussex Primary Care Trust, which runs Horsham Community Hospital in Hurst Road, received 84 complaints, of which four were resolved through intervention.

The other 80 submitted were either not deemed suitable to take on for investigation or had been suitably investigated by the PCT.

A spokesperson for West Sussex PCT said: “Complaints are a valuable source of information about the way people feel about their local NHS, and are important for us to take into consideration when it comes to planning and making decisions on local health services.

“We take every complaint seriously and learn from them to help us to improve the services we commission.

“We work closely with the ombudsman’s service which gives a valuable next step for anyone who is unhappy with how their complaint about the NHS has been handled. Our aim is always to try to resolve a complaint locally however their independent view and advice can be very helpful.”

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, received just 20 complaints in 2011/2012, of which only one was accepted for investigation.

A spokesperson said: “The trust is committed to hearing patient’s concerns and resolving them to the patient’s satisfaction. The lessons learned from these are used to improve services for patients. This trust has an active patient advice and liaison service that resolves concerns successfully.”

While there was an increase in the amount of complaints nationally, the report admitted that this might be down to greater signposting of their service, rather than down to local resolution failings.

Dame Julie Mellor, health service ombudsman, said: “All too often the people who come to us for help are unhappy because of the careless communication, insincere apologies and unclear explanations they’ve received from the NHS.”

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, and Haywards Heath’s Princess Royal Hospital. It received 87 complaints, four of which were resolved through intervention.

Hospitals serving Horsham district residents said they valued all feedback, and had worked hard to improve the way they respond to complaints.

Jane Carmody, head of patient experience, PALS and complaints for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, said: “The number of complainants requesting that the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman undertake an independent review of their complaint has significantly dropped in the last 12 months and the Ombudsman’s report identifies that BSUH has had no complaints accepted for investigation this year.”

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust (WSHT), which runs St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, Worthing Hospital, and Southlands Hospital in Shoreham, received 44 complaints, one of which was resolved through intervention, one was accepted for investigation. Of the three complaints reported on, two were fully upheld, with one partially upheld.

Cathy Stone, director of nursing and patient safety for WSHT, said: “We receive far, far more compliments than complaints, and our staff do a fantastic job in providing high quality care to hundreds of thousands of patients every year.

“Having said that, we must accept that sometimes we do not get everything right - when that happens we must be prepared to listen carefully to what people say, and respond positively to what we hear.”

She said they regularly invited people who have made a complaint to speak to the trust board, allowing us to hear the patient’s experience first-hand.