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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Health watchdog must admit to its failures, argues a Cumbria father

BEREAVED Cumbria families have called for action over hundreds of complaints being knocked back by a national health watchdog.

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‘FAILINGS’ James Titcombe, who lost his son at Furness General Hospital’s maternity unit in 2008 wants a review of decisions by the national health watchdog

It comes as figures from the parliamentary and health service ombudsman reveal it “fully investigated” less than three per cent of complaints received in 2012/13.

The PHSO, which holds the highest level of responsibility for complaints against NHS bodies, fully investigated less than 400 of 16,000 last year, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The figures have sparked anger among families affected by historical failings at Furness General Hospital, many of whom appealed to the health watchdog for help.

James Titcombe, of Dalton, turned to the ombudsman in 2009 following the death of his son, Joshua, nine days after his birth at FGH in November 2008.

In February 2010, following almost a year of consideration, the watchdog wrote to Mr Titcombe confirming its decision not to investigate. The PHSO said it was “pleased to see” serious action had already been taken to ensure lessons were learned from Joshua’s death.

Describing how he “begged” the ombudsman to reconsider, Mr Titcombe said: “I knew something was seriously wrong with the maternity unit where Joshua was failed and I wanted to ensure other lives were not put at risk. My pleas were repeatedly ignored.”

In 2013, the ombudsman finally agreed to look into Joshua’s case, and its findings stand in stark contrast with the original decision not to investigate.

A draft report, sent to Mr Titcombe in November, is due to reveal “maladministration” in the way the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust investigated the events surrounding his son’s death.

Mr Titcombe said: “The ombudsman failed my family and they have failed others. It is now time that the PHSO clearly acknowledged this failure in an open and transparent way.

“Furthermore, I do not accept that such failures were isolated to Joshua's case alone. I know of many other families who, like us, have suffered from serious failures in the NHS and have found it impossible to obtain a proper investigation into what happened.

“Joshua’s case clearly demonstrates that decisions have been made in the past that do not stand up to scrutiny.

“There is now an urgent need for all serious cases previously turned down for investigation by the ombudsman to be independently reviewed.”

Responding to The Daily Telegraph’s report, the PHSO confirmed it changed its criteria for investigating complaints last year, based on feedback from those whose appeals had been rejected.

It said it is now completing more investigations than ever before, with 1,046 carried out between April and December 2013 compared to 249 in the same period the previous year.

Have your say

Well done again James Titcombe.
It has to be remembered that people do not complain to the Ombudsman to get compensation, the Ombudsman does not award any serious compensation. So the 16,000 complaints are from people who know improvements need to be made, and are getting nowhere talking to their hospital, so its criminal that the Ombudsman only investigates a very small number.
We actualy did eventualy persuade the ombudsman to investigate our complaint against Leighton Hospital, Crewe.
Any investigation, though, is only based on nurses and doctors notes - nothing else. What the complainant says it seemed irrelevant as only hospital notes are seen as proof. Doctors and Nurses are of course free to put in, or leave out, anything from their notes - they are hardly likely to put "I didn't bother looking after that patient today" in their notes.
Any investigation is therefore heavily biased towards the hospital.
Despite this, in our case, we did get a judgement saying that there was service failure at the hospital - but the response of the hospital, as always with the NHS, is that "it was all a long time ago and things have changed" - hence nobody ever takes the blame for anything.
Keep going Mr Titcombe - you are pushing all the right buttons.

Posted by Bruce on 7 February 2014 at 11:26

Are these families taking turns in going through every organisation with has anything remotely to do with the NHS?!

Posted by Keep calm! on 5 February 2014 at 19:27

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