Popular Science News | NHS Problems

Popular Science News –  NHS Problems. Official complaints against the NHS are just the tip of the iceberg. In 2010-11 there  were 15066 complaints received about NHS problems but only 349 were investigated and reported on. This was an increase on 2009-10 figures and there is no reason to believe that last year will not be an increase of NHS problems.

Forget blame, using the example of a fire destroying a huge block of flats, the fire brigade arrive not to complain about the fire or to discover the cause, they arrive to put the fire out. That’s what we need for the NHS. I don’t mean yet another group of NHS employees designated to deal with NHS problems, I mean informed and skilled volunteers. Not necessarily medically skilled, but people who understand what basic care represents.

For example, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is concerned that standards are dropping and have identified the roles of sisters and charge nurses being of paramount importance at the ward level to deal with NHS problems. Personally, it is the running of wards which concerns me and personal experience and feedback from staff leads me to believe there is serious cause for concern about NHS problems. The ward sister is the RCN focus for the running of a ward but when those taking on this role realise that they have neither authority or pay this creates discontent. When faced with NHS problems there is a risk that they do not have the power to solve them and for their own sanity may just want the complainer to go away. They do not even have the power to control nursing auxiliaries to affect patient cleanliness, for example.

In most cases complaints about NHS problems should move upwards but the NHS appears to be an organisation in which the complaints would be better focused at the point where they are occurring. Just as a fire-fighter directs water at the blaze. Filling in forms does not put the fire out, neither does the NHS complaints procedure, especially as they are directed towards levels in the organisation which appear to be unable to affect NHS problems at the ward level.

“The most significant finding from the RCN investigation was the pressure placed on ward sisters from looking after and nursing a group of allocated patients on every working shift, in addition to their ward leader responsibilities. This has made it impossible for them to appropriately lead, manage and supervise clinical practice and the ward environment This is not acceptable to the RCN and needs to be swiftly remedied. Ward sisters must become supervisory to shifts so that the are enabled to oversee standards of care delivery and the ward.” [Royal College of Nursing]

Instead of directing complaints to the ward sister, in my opinion, the sister should be supported to get NHS problems solved quickly. Once you understand that the sister cannot force the staff member creating the NHS problem to do something a different approach should be used. A simple question starts the ball rolling. “Whose job is it to…” It may not be easy to find this out but once you are told then it is clear who is responsible for the NHS problem. I use the word responsible not as a criticism because the reason the person is not doing something could be out of their control, e.g. lack of time allocated. But that’s where the fire is, and where the solution to NHS problems eventually lies.

Some of the NHS problems needing to be attended to are:

  • Healthcare associated infection
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Falls
  • Drug administration errors
  • Patient complaints

All these NHS problems are located in wards and can be monitored using tools such as the NHS Safety Thermometer but it doesn’t matter how much you measure as this doesn’t lead to change by itself. Anyway, these forms are controlled by NHS staff and are open to manipulation if the results threaten the staff. Much the same as negative hotel feedback cards can be thrown in the bin.

So, what is the solution? In my opinion, visitors to wards are in a better position than patients to comment about NHS problems as they happen because patients are possibly afraid of upsetting staff who treat them. Without transparency no one will know if negative comments are being removed. Patient confidentiality has to be preserved but not the identity of a complainer. If you try to complain about NHS problems you are directed towards the NHS and finding alternatives like sucks.co.uk is very difficult and when you do, you find few people using it. Whatever method you use to complain about NHS problems, one thing that is essential is to record what happens in the form of a diary, both written and videoed. Perhaps all concerned visitors should post on a simple website what happens daily, good or bad, just to show that the patient’s treatment is being monitored.

The new NHS Friends and Family Test to be fully implemented by April 2013 is the government’s version of this idea, but will it be transparent or will it be like the Property Complaints Office in north Cyprus? Intended to divert the sort of negative publicity which led to it being launched but unable to solve anything? What do you think?

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