The investigation also found that people do not complain as they do not believe it would make any difference.
A spokesperson for the Ombudsman confirmed to ehospice that cases where people are fearful of complaining include bad experiences in hospital settings around end of life.
The report of the investigation, Learning to Get Better, and published today, (Wednesday 27 May) found that complaints to the Ombudsman about healthcare represent only 20% of all complaints received. This is very low compared with other jurisdictions such as Northern Ireland where over 60% of complaints involve healthcare and and the UK Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman where 80% of cases relate to healthcare.
Speaking at a seminar to launch the report the Ombudsman said:
“Complaints are a vital early warning system for hospitals and other health services. I wonder if the tragic events seen in Áras Attracta and the Midlands Hospital Portlaoise, could have been avoided if those complaints that were made were dealt with properly.”
The seminar was also addressed by Sir Robert Francis, author of the seminal report into the failures at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust in the UK, and by Tony O’Brien, Director General of the HSE, who set out how the HSE intends to improve complaint handling in public hospitals.
The Ombudsman has recommended that the HSE and each hospital put an action plan in place to:
– Make it easy for people to complain
– Ensure that people have access to an effective independent advocacy service
– Establish a single, consistent complaints system
– Investigate the most serious complaints independently.
The Office of the Ombudsman will be monitoring the implementation of the action plans to ensure that improvement is achieved and sustained. The report follows an extensive investigation by the Ombudsman’s Office which listened to the public, hospital staff, representative groups, and involved site visits to a selection of hospitals.
The Ombudsman’s report, ‘Learning to Get Better – How Public Hospitals Handle Complaints‘ is available http://www.ombudsman.gov.ie/en/publications/investigation-reports/health-service-executive/learning-to-get-better/