People encouraged to complain about NHS

View - Main entrance sign to Stoke Mandeville Hospital
View - Main entrance sign to Stoke Mandeville Hospital

The new manager of a service which guides people through the NHS complaints procedure believes that only by people airing their grievances will standards increase.

Kate Hill will lead the county’s NHS complaints advocacy service, provided by charity SEAP, which helps people steer a course through what can seem a complicated complaints procedure.

It is free, confidential, independent of the NHS and funded by Buckinghamshire County Council.

Her appointment comes after Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Stoke Mandeville Hospital, was placed into special measures after a damning report highlighted a number of failings.

Ms Hill said: “When things go wrong with health care the results can be devastating for patients and their families.

“Upset and often under a great deal of stress, they need an effective way of making their voices heard.

“We know how daunting that can be for anyone, especially when people are unwell, have disabilities or mental health issues.

“People who do complain can get answers and explanations as well as giving health bosses a chance to learn and improve services.”

She explained that the complaints advocacy service covers all aspects of NHS care as well as treatment at some private facilities which are NHS funded.

That means that complaints may range from dentists, opticians and pharmacists as well as GPs and hospitals.

She said: “Advocates can help people through the formal NHS complaints procedure, explaining the choices they have at every stage and helping them make sure the health service is listening.

“That might mean helping them to write letters, attending meetings or referring cases to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.”

Most people want health organisations to recognise when thing have gone wrong and make changes so other people do not have the same experience, she said.

“Recent reports about NHS failings, including concerns about some care at local hospitals, have highlighted the need for people to make any concerns known.”

She said that because advocates deal with a wide range of complaints they are able to spot trends and draw attention to possible areas of concern. That is why the service is working closely with the local health champion Healthwatch Bucks.

Anyone who would like help from an advocate or more information on how to complain about NHS services can contact the service on 0300 343 5705 or e-mail buckinghamshire@seap.org.uk.

More information about the NHS Complaints Advocacy Service and SEAP is available on the charity’s website