Wednesday, 9 March 2011

People are Frightened of Complaining

They say that the British are bad at complaining. We’d rather sip at cold soup than ask the waiter to return it to the kitchen, but when it comes to our health care we should be able to speak out. Since I sent a letter of complaint to the Leicester General Hospital about the negligence of my mother I have been amazed by people’s responses.

Many comments were along the lines of, 
“You are brave. When something similar happened to my mum I didn’t dare complain.”

Some said things like, 
“I do admire you. I was so exhausted by the experience I didn’t have the energy to complain.”

Others have made less encouraging comments like, 
“Well done for putting your head above the parapet but rather you than me.”

I don’t often feel passionate enough about an issue to raise my head quite this high but care of the frail elderly is one issue that I can’t ignore.

Readers of my blog will know that over the last few years I have, unfortunately, become a regular visitor of the Leicester Royal Infirmary, especially the Osborne Building. I have always been impressed by their high standards, particularly in the Bone Marrow Unit and the Haematology Wards. But seeing these areas of excellence has shown me that hospital wards can work and has further highlighted the low standards of care experienced by my mother at the Leicester General Hospital.

So has putting my head above the parapet done any good? I hope so. I have had several meetings with members of the Leicester NHS Trust, including Malcolm Lowe-Lauri, the Chief Executive, and what’s more they’ve listened to me and they’ve taken on board the two issues where I felt my input could make a difference.

To ensure that on each shift there is an easily identifiable nurse-in-charge working alongside the ward team.

To ensure that the hospitals’ complaints procedures are easily accessible and fear-free.

The first item has already been addressed. The Trust has initiated a big red Nurse in Charge badge to be worn by the Nurse in Charge of each shift. They have instigated daily Matron ward rounds at visiting times to ensure visitors and patients see the Matron and this is also expected of the Nurse in Charge.

The second item is not so easy. I’m still unclear about the difference between PALS and PILS but apparently PILS is the department to approach with complaints about Leicester hospitals. It stands for Patient Information Liaison Service and has a Freephone number 08081 788337.

I’ve also had a meeting this week with my local councillor, Andy Bayford, who is Chair of the Leicester Health Scrutiny Committee. (Yes, I have been very busy!) Cllr Bayford has promised to include the issue of hospital complaints on the agenda of his next Health Scrutiny Committee Meeting and I’ll be there to listen to the discussion.

But the big problem of fear still exists and I do understand why. I was harassed by the nurses the day after I made my first formal complaint, but my mother was hungry and dirty. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. Malcolm Lowe-Lauri has made a pledge to address this fear. I hope he’s successful.

We all have a basic right to complain. We should be insisting on zero tolerance to neglect in hospitals because if everyone who is affected complains, then together we will make a difference.



  1. Thank you for keeping us updated on your progress, I hope in the end they will not only listen but act. Thank goodness there a people like you, Rosalind, who have not been broken by the system. Take care. x

  2. Rosalind, you are spot-on here. We are entitled to good service, particularly if it is service we have paid for. In complaining and taking our issues to the authorities, not just our friends, we are helping our society to progress and improve.

    I hope you will see the fruits of your work Rosalind!

  3. Well done on all the progress you've made. Here's hoping other elderly patients in that hospital receive better care now.

  4. Hi Pauline, Duncan and Yvonne. Thanks for your encouragement.

    There's a relevant article on Age UK's website if you'd like to read more about the frail elderly in hospital,

  5. Well done Rosalind and you're so right, if we don't complain about important things, there is no way they'll change them.

  6. Well done, Ros and may your work continue to bear fruit. Good luck with the PALS, PILS thing. How ridiculous that a complaints procedure should be so hard to follow.

  7. I think what you're doing is fantastic. I work in the alternative dispute resolution world, and we definitely encounter people who are scared of what the consequences might be if they speak up, even when there really couldn't be any.

  8. I am always a little in awe of people like you who make their voices heard. I'm the one who doesn't speak up. I think people can make a difference if enough of them keep hammering away with their ideas. I do wish you luck and hope others join you.
    Love and peace. xo xo xo

  9. Good for you! I'm glad to hear they are already instituting at least one change! I hope this continues :)

  10. Thanks Sarah, I do hope there really will be changes but...

    Hi Alison, yes it's unbelievable that a complaints procedure is so obscure.

  11. Thanks Amie, it is sad when people feel so disempowered. We should all have the confidence to speak out against injustice.

    Thanks Manzanita, I didn't really expect to be speaking up quite so loudly. I saw my mum suffering and the objections just came pouring out.

  12. Hi Jemi, it sounds good on paper but a friend has just called to say that her relative has been treated every bit as badly in the same hospital only this week. It's going to be a long fight!

  13. Just reading where you described your mother as "hungry and dirty" made me tear up. I'm so glad you took action in this case, Rosalind. I shudder to think of the patients there who have noone to search out food and help for them when they're hungry and dirty. I hope your complaints will help them all. Good job! (And a good reason to be busy!)


  14. Well done you Ros, you are doing a great job. Love Karan

  15. Hi Amy, I hope it all helps too but I'm afraid there are still people in hospital suffering. We're not there yet.

    Thanks Karan, I'm trying my best.

  16. It is so sad how people are intimidated by authority and that's why they continue to get away with such disgraceful behaviour.
    I would guess that a person whose relative is suffering in the hospital at the moment is scared that if she complains she will be treated even worse.
    And once out of the hospital they may still be scared that if she has to be readmitted they will take it out on the patient again.
    But the truth is that if no one ever complains - and takes the complaint right to the top like you are doing Ros - thousands will continue to suffer.
    You have my great admiration - keep it up and I just hope that some more people will be brave enough to join you

  17. My Mum was in the Leicester General in February, having been transferred there from Glenfield for a biopsy. She was moved from pillar-to-post and then left and ignored for several days in ward and finally discharged none the wiser. Indeed, she was told 'get dressed your leaving now' (3pm) and left sitting on her bed until midnight only to be told 'dont know who said your going home cos youre not' and she was kept in limbo for two more days. Awful place.

  18. Hey Rosalind, I love your site and as I browsed your blog I decided to award you the Powerful Woman Writer Award.

    Go to and pick up your award.

  19. I've been directed to this post via your latest one.I think what you are doing is fantastic. My mother in law was in hospital after a fall, she needed full time care, we found her a care home five minutes away from us but because hospital social workers were busy it took three months for her to be assessed,this had to be done so we could get council funding for the care home.We fought and fought with them and got no where.The old people were left in bed with no stimulation,also with male carers taking them to the toilet and changing them which I really object to. Good luck with the changes you are trying to make.