Thousands paid to patients

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Thousands of pounds have been paid to hospital patients or their families after complaints about their care, it has been revealed.

New data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows £8.350 was paid out over three years by Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.

This was made up of eight separate payments following complaints to the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman.

The data shows there were three payments in 2013/14 of £1,000, £2,500 and £1,000, and one payment of £500 in 2014/15.

In 2015/16, four payments were made - two of £1,000, plus £750 and £600.

The response to the Wigan Evening Post, signed by the trust’s chief executive Andrew Foster, said: “The reason for the payments is that the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) directed the trust to make the payments to these complainants following their review of the cases.

“The PHSO specify the level of payment to be made.”

The PHSO looks into complaints when someone believes an organisation has not acted properly or fairly or has given poor service and not put things right.

Complaints are first made to the organisation involved - in this case the hospital trust - so they have a chance to make amends.

If the complainant believes there is still a dispute, they can contact the PHSO, which was set up by Parliament to provide an independent complaint handling service.

It looks into complaints about NHS organisations, such as hospitals and dentists, and government departments like Jobcentre Plus.

If the PHSO fully or partly upholds the complaint, it can make recommendations to the organisation, such as acknowledging their mistakes, apologising, making a payment to the complainant and taking action to prevent the same mistakes happening again.

Pauline Law, director of nursing, who is also responsible for governance and complaints, said: “The trust always welcomes the views of people who have experience of using our services, even if they are critical. All complaints give us an insight into what our patients are thinking and provide an opportunity to change the service if something is not working, or to provide appropriate information to change public perception, if that is the problem.

“When local resolutions have been exhausted, should a person remain dissatisfied, WWL recommends that they contact the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman who will undertake an independent investigation into the complaint.”

One of the complaints was made by the family of a man who said there had been delays in diagnosing and treating his kidney cancer.

He went to the A&E department as he had blood in his urine and was sent for tests and an urgent CT scan.

But he was not told he had a mass on his left kidney, a follow-up appointment was not made, a printed report of his scan went astray and he had to contact the hospital several times for the results.

It was almost two months after the scan that he saw the consultant urologist and was told the findings.

He had his kidney removed two months later but a scan carried out the following year showed the cancer had spread to his lungs. He died less than a year later.

The PHSO found there were unnecessary delays in diagnosing the cancer and arranging surgery to remove his kidney. However, even if he had received more urgent treatment, it would not have extended or saved his life.

The trust apologised to his family, gave them £1,000 in compensation and prepared an action plan to show what it would do to prevent the failings happening again.

Another complaint was made by the family of a woman who went to her GP in 2010 with hoarse speech.

She was referred to the trust’s ear, nose and throat (ENT) service, diagnosed with vocal cord palsy and had speech therapy.

But in 2012, she collapsed with breathing difficulties and went to A&E.

She was discharged into the care of her GP, who found she had an overactive thyroid.

She was referred to another hospital trust and tests showed she had thyroid cancer, which had spread to her muscles and lymph nodes.

She had surgery and radiotherapy and was told the cancer had spread to her spine.

In summer 2013, Mrs W went to Wigan A&E and tests showed the cancer had spread to other parts of her spine.

Her family wanted her to be transferred back to the second hospital trust and despite advice from specialists that she should be fitted with a neck brace during the transfer, it was not done.

Mrs W died a month later.

The PHSO partly upheld the complaint. They found the ENT staff had investigated her symptoms appropriately, but she was not assessed adequately in A&E in 2012, so there was a delay in treating her breathing difficulties and finding the cancer.

However, the delays did not affect her prognosis, they said.

The trust apologised to her husband and paid £500 in compensation. It also prepared an action plan to make sure staff learned from the failings and explained what it had done to avoid it happening again.