Suffolk/Essex: East of England Ambulance Service suffers fresh blow as number of patient complaints soars

A total of 1,177 patients wrote a letter of complaint to the trust in 2012/13, a surge of 71% from 6

A total of 1,177 patients wrote a letter of complaint to the trust in 2012/13, a surge of 71% from 686 in 2011/12, statistics compiled by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed yesterday. - Credit: Archant

The East of England Ambulance Service’s already battered reputation took a fresh blow last night after figures revealed a huge rise in the number of patient complaints.

A total of 1,177 patients wrote a letter of complaint to the trust in 2012/13, a surge of 71% from 686 in 2011/12, statistics compiled by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed yesterday.

There was just a 1.9% rise in the whole of England during in the same period.

Ambulance bosses have borne the brunt of politicians’ anger in recent years over a series of poor response times and the quality of care of patients.

An independent review, headed by West Midlands Ambulance Service CEO Anthony Marsh, said in June the board and senior management team appeared to have developed a sense of “helplessness”, adding there was a lack of a “cohesive” plan.


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Five non-executive directors resigned following the damning report while health watchdog the Care Quality Commission warned the trust earlier this year to improve its performance.

An EEAS spokesman last night insisted the trust was increasing the number of ambulances and recruiting more frontline staff, claiming a “robust investigation procedure” ensured bosses learnt from complaints. But Dr Dan Poulter, junior health minister and MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, argued the latest round of “hugely disappointing but not unsurprising” revelations must act as a “poignant reminder” for the trust’s new management as they set about overhauling standards.

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EEAS interim chief executive Andrew Morgan pledged earlier this month to improve the trust’s performance.

Dr Poulter said: “The ambulance trust has acknowledged a wide scale of mismanagement and serious failings over the past few months and this information is a poignant reminder to the new management of the scale of their task.

“Patients have felt let down historically and they must use this as a reminder that they must come forward with a strong plan that will benefit both staff and patients in response to the Marsh Report.

“They have got to listen to patients and frontline staff who do a very good job. They have got to get their house in order and put together a pack of measures that is going to improve patient care and put more resources in the frontline.”

In defending paramedics and frontline staff, he added: “I believe they are some of the very best in the country, but they have been let down by poor management and clearly patients are now saying the same thing.”

An EEAS spokesman said they received nearly double the amount of compliments compared to complaints.

“We have robust investigation procedures in place to ensure that learning from the experiences of our patients, positive and negative, can help us improve our service and prevent any adverse incidents from recurring,” he added.

Meanwhile the number of complaints levelled against Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital, climbed from 551 in 2011/12 to 640 in 2012/13.

A spokesman said: “We take all complaints extremely serious which is why we investigate each one fully and thoroughly.

“When a complaint is upheld, we use it as a learning opportunity to ensure that improvements are made for future patients.”

Annie Topping, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, urged patients to lodge complaints after claiming research showed people were reluctant to report problems.

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