How the NHS failed me and mine.
What it did, to the most important person
in my life and how it could happen to you unless
we do something about it!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

NHS Complaints - Stage 1 - Local Resolution

A Critique from a Patient.

"The first problem encountered was the delays in obtaining Medical Notes.
Although these are supposed to be available within 20 days of request, that means 'working days'. You have also to send a fee, just register your need (£10) so they can assess the work needed and then tell you of a further fee of maximum £40 (which it always is) to provide you with the copies. Nothing will be done until your payment is recieved and processed, so we are already well beyond 20 days overall. You will in fact, in all your dealings with complaints system, find that time assumes an elasticity akin to a rubber band.You are of course at some disadvantage, because you have no idea as to what constitutes a complete set of notes or otherwise, or whether some have been witheld. 

With your notes to help, you can then formulate your complaint and forward it to the Hospital or PCT. Again the passage of time will extend to suit 'them' rather than you. Although protocols are laid down, every excuse will be made to delay, such as people off sick, on leave, left the department, abduction by aliens ? All of these calculated to allow the passage of time to obscure issues and your memory of events.

Your reply will eventually arrive; probably penned by a Complaints Manager, or worse 'A Patient Experience Officer'. It will usually be condescending, rich in terms that you may not understand unless you have medical or scientific training and littered with excuses and obfuscation. You may also recieve some possibility of an apology for the experience you have had. Or, an admission that certain things that should have been done that were not. And of course they will ensure that such problems will not re-occur because they have measures in place to ensure it will not.Pure 'bullshit' of course, and should not be countenanced by any complainant. You need to know that their measures will be put in place and be seen to be so. But of course they are unlikely to invite you inspect or check this out; you are simply expected to accept their word.

Remaining dissatisfied at this stage, you may take advantage of a meeting that may be offered to discuss your complaint. You will assume it will be with Doctors or others who had a hand in your treatment. It won't; it will be with the machinery of the official excuse and bafflement department. The specialists, whose role in the scheme of healthcare, is to navigate a safe passage for the Trust through the complaint, to achieve the best outcome for their employer. You will not be allowed to put a face or even often a name, to the Architects of your treatment. They will be hiding behind the 'stonewall' of the Medico-Legal team with whom you will be confronted. This usually fronted by a Consultant, not in the normal sense of the word but one that mainly earns a living being an Expert Witness, or Single Joint Expert in Private Practice, as well as taking taxpayer gold in the NHS. These 'mercenaries' of Medicine, make a handsome living working for anyone who can afford their extortionate fees or of course the NHS. Yes we are paying them, to deny us justice and candour, and get their cronies off the hook.

Obfuscation will be the order of the day; issues will be clouded, and finally you will be told that any negligence in your treatment is a 'matter of opinion', as to whether or not your complaint has value. This is the 'perfect storm' of medical errors defence, 'the bolam test'. They say that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, well Bolam is the final defence of Doctors who have transgressed. If a 'body of opinion' within the Physician cohort agrees with the treatment you feel to be negligent, then it is correct. It is unjust, counter intuitive, robs you of the redress that you seek, but it is the Law of this land.

Your meeting is finite. You will not be allowed to overrun, despite the fact that you may be distressed by the dissection of your experience. You will be alone or with your ICAS advisor, who may, or may not act as moderator. You also have to remember your opposition are important and busy persons, with meetings to go to, money to make, and more complainants to shaft. You will at some time be asked what you want 'them' to do about your complaint. Pretty much a 'when did you stop beating your wife' question. They will also apologise for the poor experience you feel sums up your treatment, but will give no tangible hope that anything will change. 'Smoke and Mirrors' is what you will be shown, all signifying nothing.

You will leave at the termination of the allotted time, feeling lost, distraught, drained of hope, even doubting your own veracity. Probably in tears, as was I and my J, with their weasel words of sympathy ringing in your ears. And of course with your hope of redress in tatters".

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