Complaint ‘not taken seriously’

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NHS Borders has “fully accepted” the findings of a watchdog which has upheld a complaint from a male patient with heart problems.

Evelyn Rodger, the health board’s interim director of acute services, admits that aspects of his treatment had “not met expected standards”.

She has also given an assurance that lessons will be learned to improve services and the way complaints are handled.

Ms Rodger was speaking after the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) published the result of an investigation into the complaint from a patient, referred to as Mr C.

Despite having “long-standing heart problems”, he claimed he had failed to receive a cardiology service at the Borders General Hospital for a period of nearly 18 months.

Upholding the complaint, the watchdog said Mr C had not been recalled for his routine six-monthly cardiology review appointment.

“The board said this was because, after he declined surgery for an unrelated medical condition, surgeons did not let the cardiology department know that the surgery would not go ahead,” states the SPSO report.

“We found that even after Mr C’s GP referred him again, it took too long and considerable effort on his part to get another cardiology appointment.

“The board acknowledged that there were problems with workload within the administration team and apologised for the failing. They acknowledged the delay was unacceptable…and took steps to monitor workflow within the administration team. We found that these were reasonable actions.”

The ombudsman also found “shortcomings” in the way Mr C’s complaint had been dealt with at the hospital. “The initial response to Mr C’s complaint made no

reference to key points he had raised – nor did it refer to the difficulties he experienced when he contacted the board by phone,” states the SPSO.

“We found that the board had apologised for the fact that a room used for a meeting [to discuss Mr C’s complaint] had been very small and full of people when he arrived.

“We found that the cumulative effect of these errors made Mr C feel his complaints were not being taken seriously.”

The ombudsman has recommended NHS Borders reviews the process “by which patients are discharged from one service to another and back again…and to build in safeguards to ensure the system is robust”.

Ms Rodger told us: “We have assured the ombudsman that we recognise and regret the aspects of the patient’s treatment and complaint handling that did not meet expected standards.”