NHS complaints system review urged
The Government should carry out an immediate review of the way NHS trusts handle complaints from patients, according to an MPs' report.
The current structure is not working and more needs to be done to encourage a "more open culture" when it comes to dealing with complaints and admitting mistakes, it says.
The report, from the cross-party Commons Health Committee, says the Government has sufficient data to conduct a review and "should do so without delay".
Ministers should seriously consider whether two systems should be created, one dealing with complaints about "customer care" and a second examining more serious complaints about clinical issues.
The role of the Health Service Ombudsman should also be expanded to allow more claims to be examined as part of an appeals process when patients are unhappy.
At present, patients complain first to the NHS trust in charge of their treatment. If they are unsatisfied with the trust's response, they can ask the ombudsman to review their case.
But MPs said the ombudsman's remit is much narrower than patients think it is.
A complaint is only accepted for formal investigation or intervention if the person has suffered injustice or hardship as a result of poor service or maladministration, and only if there is the prospect of "a worthwhile outcome".
A Department of Health spokesman said: "The revised plans we set out last week, in response to the independent NHS Future Forum, will safeguard the future of the NHS and put patients at the heart of our health service.
"In addition, Local HealthWatch will champion the views and experiences of patients, helping to drive improvements in the quality of health and social care services."