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Watchdog slams NHS 'toxic cocktail'

Patients who suffer poor care in hospitals are being failed by a "toxic cocktail" within the health service, according to the NHS Ombudsman.

Dame Julie Mellor told The Daily Telegraph that patients were often too frightened to complain in case they received even worse treatment, while those who did met "a culture of defensiveness" from staff.

Dame Julie is calling for changes so that more concerns are acted on promptly, and action is taken before care is jeopardised, the newspaper said.

These would include access to a free patients' advice service 24 hours a day, and for each patient to be given the name of a senior person - usually the ward sister - as the first contact for concerns.

These have been submitted to an independent review of hospital complaints by Ann Clwyd, a Labour MP who protested about the care her late husband received while he was in hospital last year. The report is due next month, the newspaper said.

Dame Julie said that research carried out by the Ombudsman had found that the NHS culture meant too often that those who suffered harm were denied a simple apology.

She said: "What we found was that there is a toxic cocktail - patients felt reluctant to complain, because they can fear it will affect the care they get - and that if they do, they are met with a culture of defensiveness, where they don't get the explanations they need, and the opportunity is lost to learn really powerful insights, which could improve the NHS."

Research has found that more than half of those who consider complaining about the NHS do not do so, with many put off because they expect the process to be bureaucratic, while others believe it will make no difference, the newspaper said.

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