Ombudsman upholds tourist’s tooth complaint

A TOURIST who claimed he was told to leave Borders General Hospital (BGH) after being refused dental treatment for a painful abscess has had his complaint upheld by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

However, Jim Martin decided not to take any further action, deeming the apology Yorkshireman Phil Scott received and measures taken by NHS Borders to be a sufficient response from the health board.

The complaint was made in May last year when Mr Scott, 61, a retired teacher, and a group of friends travelled to the Borders to play golf at a series of courses over three days.

While playing on the first day at Peebles,Mr Scott developed severe pain in his tooth, with his gum and his face swelled up at night.

He says he was advised by his wife, a nurse who was at his home in Withernsea, to visit A&E due to his condition, with no pharmacies open.

He did so, seeking antibiotics and painkillers, but BGH staff told Mr Scott to contact NHS 24 as no dentist was available to treat him.

A call to the health helpline’s English sister NHS Direct saw him referred back to the hospital, but upon his second visit, Mr Scott says he was told to leave and that NHS 24 would call him back, which it never did.

He eventually received treatment back home in Yorkshire from his dentist, but he was left furious about his healthcare experience in the Borders and fearful of how the situation could have developed.

Mr Scott told TheSouthern in June last year: “I learned that if the infection had spread to my eye it could have been very serious and, worse still, problems originating in the mouth, such as an abscess, have been proved to cause heart attacks.”

He added: “The hospital staff seemed uncaring and unconcerned about my situation and were quite happy to let me suffer.

“All of this marred what should have been an outstanding week in a very beautiful part of the country – it leaves me feeling angry and disappointed.”

NHS Borders and NHS 24 said sorry to Mr Scott at the time, and promised to investigate the case but he approached the ombudsman as he was unhappy with the health board’s response.

Mr Martin, who refers to Mr Scott as Mr C in his report, said: “We took advice from our medical adviser, and found that communication failures led Mr C to leave the hospital, but that a consultation should have been arranged when he returned to the emergency department after his telephone call with NHS 24.

“The provision of simple pain relief and prescription of antibiotics, if required, would have been reasonable medical care.

“We told the board this, and upheld this complaint. However, as Mr C had already received an apology from the board and they had taken measures to try to prevent this happening again, we did not make any recommendations.

“We found that the board had considered and dealt with Mr C’s complaint in line with NHS complaints procedures.”

Chief executive of NHS Borders, Calum Campbell, said the board accepted the ombudsman’s recommendations.

He added: “We recognise, and regret, that aspects of Mr C’s treatment did not meet expected standards and we have contacted Mr C to offer our sincere apologies.

“NHS Borders takes every complaint very seriously. The lessons we learnt from this experience have been implemented and provide us with valuable opportunity to improve our services.

“While acknowledging the issues raised in this case, NHS Borders welcomes the decision that we had dealt with his complaint in line with NHS complaints procedures.”