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.