Rise in patient complaints against Colchester Hospital, Ipswich Hospital and East of England Ambulance Service

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Written patient complaints against Colchester General Hospital almost doubled in the first quarter of 2017/18 compared to the same period last year, new figures reveal.

Ipswich Hospital. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Ipswich Hospital. Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

The statistics from NHS Digital also show a slight rise in formal grievances against Ipswich Hospital and the East of England Ambulance Service.

Colchester General Hospital acquired 213 new criticisms during the first three months of this financial year, a big jump from the 114 it received in quarter one of 2016/17.

Director of nursing, Catherine Morgan, said the rise was partly down to changes made to its classification system in order to be consistent with the approach taken by its partner organisation, Ipswich Hospital. Talks are underway about the two trusts merging into one organisation.

She added: “Each complaint is taken extremely seriously and regarded as a learning opportunity to help the trust continue on its journey of improvement.”

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: SIMON PARKER

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: SIMON PARKER - Credit: Archant

Colchester General Hospital is rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission and has been in special measures since 2013.

Dr David Sollis, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex, said Colchester was actually the highest rated of all five of the county’s five acute hospitals on its TripAdvisor style online feedback forum.

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He added: “People who have left reviews have given it an average of four-and-a-half stars out of five. A common theme being the hard work and dedication of the staff. That said, I think looked at in conjunction with these latest figures around complaints and some of the CQC findings, we can see that there is very much a mixed picture at Colchester.”

Ipswich Hospital collected 162 written grievances in the first quarter of 2017/18, compared to 143 the previous year.

An East of England Ambulance Service vehicle. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

An East of England Ambulance Service vehicle. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Lisa Nobes, director of nursing and quality, said the trust encouraged patients to give feedback on their experiences.

“We take complaints very seriously and as well as working through them with our patients and their carers and families, we carefully monitor patterns,” she added.

“Looking at the reasons why people complain can be more important than the numbers as it enables us to make sure we do not have continuing themes or issues which are not addressed.”

Complaints against the region’s ambulance service went up from 429 to 440. The trust has been approached for comment.

Meanwhile, West Suffolk Hospital managed to slice its figures from 77 to 31.

Rowan Procter, executive chief nurse, said she was “delighted” with the reduction in complaints.

“The views of our service users are the ones that matter most; listening to our patients and local community will always be a priority, and we’ll continue to explore new ways for people to provide their feedback and share their concerns,” she added. “There is always more we can do to improve patient experience.”

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said the outcome of the grievances was more important than the numbers.

He added: “Of course it is disheartening to see that more people have made written complaints to our local services in recent months but, whatever the number, these figures don’t always tell the full story.

“The fact that people are able to navigate their way into the complaints process in the first place and have those concerns addressed should be viewed as a positive for both people and providers of care. Indeed, the Healthwatch network has fought for reform to the way in which complaints about NHS and care services are managed, including on a local level, to make it easier for people to complain and have their views heard.”

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