'No confidence' in NHS ombudsman
A patients' rights charity has said it has "no confidence" in the independent NHS ombudsman to investigate individuals' complaints about the health service.
The Patients Association released a report into what it claims were failures by the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to handle complaints of poor care by families, who they say have been "let down".
The PHSO, the last resort for those complaining about unfair or poor service from the NHS in England, is undergoing a modernisation scheme and last month revealed it had investigated 2,199 cases in 2013/14 - six times more than the previous year.
But Patients Association deputy chief executive Jacqueline Coles, writing in the report, said it had "failed to adapt" to modern demands and they would no longer be referring callers on the charity's helpline to the watchdog.
"For many years we have advised people who had contacted our national helpline to go to the PHSO when they have received an unsatisfactory response from their local health service providers," she said.
"Sadly we can no longer recommend this course of action to patients, as we have no confidence in the PHSO to carry out an independent, fair, open, honest and robust investigation.
"It leaves the victims and families seeking help regarding health concerns cold, alone and frozen out. The PHSO fails them on a regular basis ."
The report cites the case of Sam Morrish, who died in 2010 from a treatable condition due to multiple health service failings and whose parents said they felt "failed" by the complaints process after it took four years for the PHSO to publish its findings.
The association's report recommends an overhaul of the ombudsman to improve investigation timescales, contact with patients and a code of practice.
A PHSO spokesman told the BBC: "We have embarked on a radical modernisation drive which includes listening to feedback from users.
"We are delighted that the Patients Association has agreed to help us draw up a service charter, which will be a set of promises to users about what they can expect when they use our service."