Southern Trust hospitals probed the most by watchdog

Craigavon Area Hospital. INLM02-110gc
Craigavon Area Hospital. INLM02-110gc

A new report has revealed that hospitals in the Southern Trust are being investigated the most by the Public Service Ombudsman.

Record numbers of patients are being forced to lodge complaints against hospitals, prompting the ombudsman, Marie Anderson to raise concerns.

She warned that 80 percent of her workload was linked to healthcare complaints, which include unavoidable deaths, failures to diagnose, and how health bodies have been handling complaints.

The ombudsman is the highest authority to deal with these complaints – the place for patients and the bereaved to turn if they feel local services have failed to listen.

Last year a total of 16 grievances against the Southern Trust was lodged with the watchdog by patients, the highest total in Northern Ireland.

Alarmingly, the figure represents just 1.5% of the total number of complaints, 1066, received by the trust.

The South Eastern Trust had the next highest number of complaints at 9, while the Western and Northern Trusts had the joint lowest at 6.

“The high number of healthcare complaints is concerning”, said Anderson.

“This raises questions about whether or not the health bodies are learning from the complaints they received first and are they doing anything about it? That is a matter of concern to me.”

A spokesperson for the Southern trust said: “A significant number of complaints referred to the ombudsman regarding The Southern Trust are not upheld.”

The Health and Social Care Board said that it had launched an awareness campaign about the new complaints system.

“Since the introduction of the revised complaints arrangements for Health and Social Care in 2009, the number of complaints received by HSC organisations has increased each year. Complaints by service users are to be welcomed as they provide an opportunity to learn from experience and improve services.

“The number of complaints received each year must be viewed in context with the many thousands of individual patient/client interactions that take place every day in hospitals, clinics, GP and dental surgeries, day centres, and by other HSC staff attending patients in their own homes.”